Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Weekend

This has been a pretty boring weekend, I just haven't felt like doing anything so I end up bored but I don't feel like doing anything so I end up bored. It feels a bit like when I had malaria and I was trying to do this mathematical puzzle in my delirious state which, on the one hand, I knew was totally impossible to do mentally but I just couldn't let it go as I drifted in and out of consciousness. It was the most frustrating thing, knowing that it was impossible but not being able to just let it go.

So a brief summary, friday morning Kim and I ran and I just made it home in time to go for a 40km mountain bike ride with Carl which was really great. I almost had a head on collision with a Corgi, we were both in the same deep rut heading in different directions and it was difficult for me to get out over the wall of the rut. The corgi on the other hand fitted in the rut like a pull though in a gun barrel, that is to say perfectly. I don't think he could have got out of the rut if he had wanted to. Got out of the rut just in time which prevented me from having to pacify the owner and explain the tyre marks over the top of his corgi's head.

Quite near the end of the ride, I finally did what I have always wanted to. There were two road cyclists up ahead and about 500m beyond them our turnoff so I came barreling past them at high speed. Being overtaken by a mountain bike if you're on a road bike on the road is just not on so needless to say, they picked up the speed but by the time they would've caught me - I'd turned off, thus denying them the satisfaction of leaving me in their dust. Childish but fun!

That was it for friday, I can't remember anything else other than renting a movie, Dangerous Beauty, which laurel joined us for. Not a bad movie about life during the 16th century in Venice. Saturday disappeared in a fog of inefficiency where although we tried to get things done like buy a replacement fridge for the one kirsten purchased from kim which we were "storing". Not so cheap these fridges. Also went and had a look for gas stoves which Caron still hasn't got her mind around. For some reason, she thinks that they are just going to explode. This is possible but it is also possible that a car might have an accident but that doesn't stop everyone from using cars. Still, we are at a bit of an impasse on the topic of moving to a gas stove but we really do need to look at getting a new stove of some kind.

I was going to meet Glynne for a ride on Sunday morning but he got an abcess under a tooth so bouncing along on a bike was just not going to happen and I ended up doing 70km on my own. I decided to do my normal 70km route backwards and I'm trying to build up more strength so I have limited myself to using 3rd as my lowest gear so some of the hills were pretty tough. Nevertheless I did actually manage it so I am looking forward to a month or two's time when 3rd will be my normal gear. Averaged over 26km/hr which I'm pretty pleased about.

We went to see "Fools Gold" on the circuit on Sunday evening which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Nothing like mindless adventure to help ease the passage of time.

Monday morning I ran to gym, did the circuit, swam a kilometre and then ran back home. 4.5km of running - a milestone for me and no sore knees or ITB or shin splits. Feeling very positive about everything at the moment. I have been designing a headboard for us because, well we don't have one and although it is easy enough to go and buy one - we have yet to see one that we are even ambivalent about let alone one we actually like. Everything we see in the shops is absolutely awful so I've been toying with designs for a while and I have finally settled on one and we have now purchased the wood, all R2200.00 of it. It is definitely not the cheaper option so I really hope it turns out vaguely well.

We went over to kim's for lunch, at Caron's parents invitation, which was very good dining indeed and that brings me up to date and to the end of a very lazy weekend. Looking forward to work tomorrow.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Mental Appendix

"Religion is a mental appendix, outdated but not yet extinct"

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian, 22 March 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008


"There are none so blind as those who will not see"

- Jonathan Swift

Lifes' Meaning

"I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man. The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality. It can never be conquered. The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is. Evil is impotent before it. The prophets, religious teachers, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it. This dumb, blind love is man’s meaning."

Vasily Grossman in "Life and Fate"

Catholics come out of the dark ages 500 years after everyone else

I've picked up in the media that there is a new list of mortal sins published by the Vatican as follows:
  • Environmental pollution
  • Genetic manipulation
  • Accumulating excessive wealth
  • Inflicting poverty
  • Drug trafficking and consumption
  • Morally debatable experiments
  • Violation of fundamental rights of human nature
I have a couple, ok, more than a couple of questions on this:
  • Since the Catholic church is one of the largest landowners worldwide, just how much does one actually have to accumulate to commit the sin of "excessive wealth"? Maybe this list is only meant for catholics but not the Catholic Church itself?
  • Does this replace the previous list of mortal sins in which case catholicism is going to be a very attractive spiritual home for many, many people?
  • Is pride, envy, gluttony, lust anger, greed and sloth acceptable behaviour now? It would sure sort out all the problems with priests getting caught with their habits down, these habits now being deemed acceptable.
  • Does the previous list of mortal sins now become known as the immortal sins and do you achieve immortality if you practice them?
  • Exactly how do I go about inflicting poverty on someone? If anyone knows, I have a couple of people (mostly politicians) that I think would seriously benefit from coming to be known as "formerly wealthy".

Bafana Bafana

My weekly read of the Mail&Guardian sometimes turns up some surprising stuff such as the explanation as to why our national soccer team persists in performing so poorly.

"Mlungisi Sikhonde, a traditional healer based in Alexandra, Johannesburg, confirmed that he had been approached by football players and believes that the muti he gives them enhances their performance. "It really works if you mix it well. Soccer players come back asking for more muti; they say it opens door that were locked. Sometimes I advise them to put it in their socks. It really works; even if you're unfit you can still score goals", Sikhonde said"

Hmmm! and all this time I thought that it was the coach or the political intrigues of the PSL or the clubs or the players. How wrong can one be, they clearly aren't using Mr Sikhones' muti as much as they should be! Alternatively, maybe the powder is foot specific and they've been putting the left boot powder in the right boot and vice versa. That could also explain it!

For all those first world oke's out there thinking "No wonder Africa is so backward" the first world equivalent is praying for victory before a sporting fixture while the opposition does likewise and then ascribing victory to the intervention of said deity.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Going offroad

I did the beginners course in off-road motorcycling today which turned out to be great fun but not exactly as easy as it looks on TV. The course was at Swartkops raceway which sounded a bit wierd because it is know for track and not off road riding. Riding there there was an unusual number of Ferrari's overtaking me and as it turned out, it was the annual Ferrari club track meet, there must have been at least 100 Ferraris roaring around the track for most of the day.

Once we got together there was a very brief lecture session before we headed out for a day of practical riding lessons which I am going to try and recount so that at a later stage I can practice the exercises.

1. Helmet, jacket, pants, boots and gloves are a requirement, not a luxury. The boots and gloves in particular need to be of the offroad variety.
2. All off-road riding is done standing up with the balls of your feet on the footrests from which the rubber inserts must have been removed.
3. If you're going to be doing any distance offroad, raise/rotate the handlebars so that the levers are manageable with your wrists straight.
4. ALWAYS look up! NEVER look down and definitely NEVER fixate on an obstacle. You are guaranteed to hit it if you do.
5. Slide your clutch hand along and operate it with only two fingers, this gives you much more control.
6. Operate the front brake with a single finger, this helps prevent breaking too hard with the front brake.
7. Your hands must be light on the controls and your arms very relaxed. Don't fight the bike, you aren't going to win.
8. Don't try and stop the bike falling, just let it go.
9. Relax on the bike and let it dance between your legs, particularly when in soft sand or gravel.
10. If you haven't ridden an obstacle before, walk it before you ride it.
11. If you're going to fall on a hill, stall the bike in gear. That way there is no way of it going anywhere. When you need to remount, spin the bike around to face 45 deg down the hill and pick it up from the top.

I managed to drop my bike on the very first exercise which we attempted but thereafter I managed to stay upright the entire day. We did the following exercises:

1. Walk the bike in circles while using the clutch and accelerator going in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions.
2. Walk around the bike without letting it fall only holding it at one point at any give time. You shouldn't need more than 4 touches to completely circumnavigate the bike.
3. Ride in slow tight circles on grass concentrating on putting pressure on the outside foot to balance the bike. When you turn the steering, your whole shoulders turn as well, not just your arms. It is amazing just how tight one can turn even on slippery grass or dirt simply by leaning on the outside foot peg.
4. Ride with booth feet on the left, the right and then knees together on the saddle. Once one is comfortable with this weave from side to side.
5. Riding up a slope, lean forward so that your centre of gravity is in front of the rear wheel and your arms hang down to the bars. You shouldn't be hanging onto the bars, that means that you are too far back on the bike. Have just enough speed to get to the top without spinning the rear wheel.
6. Going downhill, let the bike run against compression and use a single finger on the front brake to control your descent. Move you bum backwards so that your centre of gravity is behind the font wheel
7. If you are descending or ascending across a slope put all your weight on the downhill foot peg. Like skiing, this is counter intuitive but it really does make a difference.
8. Turn the ABS off and get into second and put the power on and feel the rear slew around behind you. Great feeling.
9. Turn the ABS off and get some speed in second and lock the rear brake while changing down unti you are at a standstill.
10. Get some speed on a downhill and let go of the handlebars and steer the bike using pressure on the footpegs.
11. We didn't do this but it seems like a very good exercise, ride in tight circles on a slope.
12. Find some deep sand or fine gravel and keep the power even while the rear fishtails around. Great fun, this was probably the part of the day which I enjoyed the most.

The rest of the day was spent practising the above on actual trails and it is difficult to emphasize enough that one must look up and not worry what is directly in front of the wheels. I found that what I struggled with the most was throttle and clutch at low speeds, I stalled the bike several times at very low speeds so I am going to have to work on this.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I forgot to recount

On the second day of the Sani2C Jason took a tumble. The story goes, with slight embellishments by yours truly, that he was overtaken by a comely woman and forgot to watch where he was going. In other words he was perving and this resulted in an altercation with a rock which the rock won hands down. After flying through the air like superman, he landed flat on top of another rock but amazingly no ribs were broken just a little bit banged up and it was only after getting back onto his bike and riding that he became aware that his forearm really hurt due to the large graze suffered in the fall. Nothing one can do about it so he ignored it until later on in the day.

When we were chatting later on he was showing me his war wound and mentioned that he really needed to put some antiseptic something on it. Fortunately for him, I happened to have something that would do just the trick. As I was pulling the bottle out he looked anxiously at it remarking "That's not mecurochrome is it because that hurts like blazes?". I assured him that it wasn't and sprayed the methiolate all over the graze and watched as he turned white from the pain - methiolate is significantly more painful than mecurochrome. Writing about it now, I feel kind of bad that I gloated in someone else's pain but given the state that I myself was in - it can not be said that I was of sound mind and there is definitely a truism in that if one is having a tough time, all you have to do is find someone that is having an even tougher time and you feel instantly better.

While on the topic of pain ...

"Pain is weakness leaving the body"


Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Pain has gone

After a week recuperating, I am finally able to sit on a chair in a more or less normal position again to recount my experiences of the "Subaru Sani2C 2008" as the entertainment hosts never failed to mention to us. They (the hosts) were amazing and managed to slip it into the dialog even when it detracted from the dialog. Sort of, Oh! there's a silence, we'd better fill it with something - and "Subaru Sani2C" would bellow over the speakers.

What have I learned from this :
1. I think that bicycle toolkits should come with an extra thingamyjig which could loosely be termed the "Saddle Extractor".
2. 5-6 weeks of intense training is simply not enough to ensure a pain free Sani2C. Morphine and myprodol are far more effective.
3. Choice of partner is very important and I got really lucky having Sid as a partner.
4. The more pain an event generates, the greater the sense of achievement one gets from finishing it.

Sani2C Day 1

It's only a week ago and the memories are already fading, it could of course be something to do with the excessive amount of pain which I managed to subject my body to.

We, Sid and I, drove down to Underberg on Wednesday afternoon which took a mere 6 1/2 hours which was much more reasonable than the 8 that we had been told that it would take. We found the house that BY and Kim had hired only to find that we were unexpected guests, something went very wrong with the communications between Jason and Kim or BY. Fortunately the couches in the lounge had not yet been taken so we were able to commandeer those and actually had a very reasonable nights kip.

The next morning we dropped the car off and hoped that we would see it again intact in Scottburgh on Saturday. The start line was pretty close and we joined the bunch of excited people about 10minutes before we were off. Saw Jason wandering around trying to find Rob, his partner for the race - and only the race just to be clear. A few minutes late we saw Jason still looking for Rob but now he had lost his bike as well so it was looking like it was going to be a very long race for him.

The gun went and we were off and despite an agreement not to start off too fast, we did. More accurately it should be said that it was too fast for me, Sid was merely cruising and in fact pretty much cruised the entire race. After about 20km of dirt road we entered the first of the single track which was something of a novel experience for me. After about a kilometre of single track I managed to fall off for the first and not the only time although it was the only time that I was actually moving forward. What happened was that I pulled off the track to overtake the rider in front and there was a 2" log lying parallel to my path which is a sure fire way to fall and it was in avoiding this that I fell anyway. No harm done and I was soon back in the saddle.

About 1/3 of the way through the day we rode over the "Steel and Pipe" bridge which was a totally unique experience. It is a floating bridge about 1.5m wide on pontoons and as you ride, it sinks below the water and it is just such a wierd experience. Very enjoyable though! Although 1.5m sounds really wide to ride on, it is only wide as long as one is moving reasonably fast but at the end of the bridge is a short slippery climb so everyone slows down and by the time you get to the end you are virtually stationary balancing on this bobbing bridge. Not so easy! Thought I was going to disgrace myself and ride off the edge a couple of times.

Photo courtesy of Rob Mcloughlin

I don't remember much after this other than a split in some single track, one marked "Easy" and the other "Very Hard" so I naturally took the easy one. The next hill that I remember is called "Tiny's Hill" for some odd reason and it is the last hill before the finish. If one hadn't done the 80km before it, it would probably be quite easy but after 80km of mountain biking I have to confess that I struggled up it in 1st gear.

Photo courtesy of the Sani2c website

After washing the bikes, locating our boxes and finding our tents it was time for a shower and food. The organisation on the Sani2C is just exceptional and the amount of food available at anytime of the day or night is astounding. Of course, after 83km of riding, it takes a lot of eating to put all that energy back so the trend was set for the next couple of days. First we ride, then we eat and sleep all afternoon before supper at 18:00 and then there is more sleep from 20:30 until the start of the next day at about 05:00.

I was just checking my brake pads in preparation for the next day and I happened to brush the worm patch in the sidewall of my front tire which dislodged it entirely and I ended up removing the tire and putting a patch on the inside. What a lucky break, this could so easily have come out tomorrow at any one of a number of dangerous spots.

The marquee that dinner and the entertainment was held in seated about 1500 people which means that it was pretty huge but by 20:30 I was the only rider in it and the tents were absolutely quiet in the tents. I would never have believed it if someone had told me but there was not a single rowdy group of guys keeping everyone else awake.

Day 1 summary : 83km, 1100m ascent, 88% of max heart rate average. 3500kcal consumed. 4:28 elapsed time.

Sani2C Day 2

The big one. This is the day that everyone has been telling me about how difficult it is and it is very safe to say that I had not been misled. A mother of a day!

The start was very early at 04:00 so that by 06:00 we were racing. The first 20km was great undulating terrain which my legs could cope with, it was the next 80km that almost killed me. After the first 20km we popped out of the forests to be greeted with the most magnificent view down the umkomaas valley with the cloud lying about 500m below us.

Photo courtesy Rob Mcloghlin

Quite a special sight, as was the first of the steep drops which had my tyres fighting for traction as I did an awesome two wheel drift down some of the sections. Very tricky going, too much braking just leads to skidding and too little leads to hair raising speed over very rough ground. Very fine balance to be had. The drop down nicks pass just has to be experienced - literally dozens of hairpin single track bends like in the photograph below. Absolutely breathtaking.

Photo courtesy of San2C website

At the bottom of nicks pass as someone so poetically put it - "Oh well, so much for the fun part of the day, now we pay!" I had been warned about the climb up to the half way point as being particularly difficult which it was but for some reason I felt that I coped ok with it. I was very glad to have an enforced 10minute rest at the half way stop which I took full advantage off while sid impatiently tapped his feet eager to be off and attack the rest of the course. The organisers put this enforced stop in due to the number of heat stroke victims which they had last year because of the temperatures that the umkomaas valley gets to. We were lucky that it was relatively cool the entire race but it was in relative terms only, we were still racing in low to mid 30 deg C heat.

What nobody warned me about was the 20km climb after the halfway stop. Mother! what a climb it just went on and on and on. There were the odd downhills but they were just followed by even bigger uphills. At one point I called an unscheduled stop ostensibly to put some oil on my chain but in reality I just needed a couple of minutes to collect my wits and gather what little strength remained for the last of the climb. Coming over the top there was pretty close to 20km of downhill, a few uphills but nothing serious. With about 14km to go there was the final waterstop where there was a cycle through bike and rider wash, what a fantastic feeling - cold water everywhere. Forced down the last of my energy gels which is becoming something of an art to swallow because they just taste awful and your stomach just wants to regurgitate it back up. The method is that you swallow as quickly as possible and then throttle yourself until the anti-peristalis movements die down. Then you breathe for a couple of minutes to get the ugly blue complexion out of your face so that people will stop asking if you are all right.

The finish line and the campsite below was a great relief to see and I was happy to have survived.

Photo courtesy of Sani2C website

We washed our bikes, found our bins and tents and had something to eat before passing out. Later on I had a great massage from one of the 50 or so masseurs laid on by the organisers. Had supper and swapped war stories before turning in exhausted. I sat looking at two potatos on my plate for about 30 minutes before I gave up - the thought of another potato was just too much.

When we arrived at the tents there was a small packet of droe wors and I just couldn't resist a couple of bites. It definitely tastes as good as I remember it to taste - in fact I can still taste it.

Day 2 summary: 99km, 2200m ascent, 80% of maximum average heart rate, 4500kcal and 6:40 elapsed time.

Sani2C Day 3 and beyond

Day 3 was supposed to be the easy day. It was easy but ONLY in comparison to day 2 - compared to anything else it is still quite a tough, albeit short day.

The day is fast and furious with an abundance of fast downhill and single track which was awesome, of course we had to pay for all of this with some really nasty climbs as shown below but there were some fantastic moments flying through the cane fields of KZN with magnificent view on both the left and right of the path.

Photo courtesy of Rob Mcloughlin

Yes, that is jason in the photograph PUSHING his bicycle up the hill. So it isn't just us back markers that pushed them up! Sid had a near accident experience around one of the corners behind me, his brakes just couldn't slow him down enough so he went off the road into the bushes and emerged back out bouncing all over the place with both legs around his hears. That has gotta hurt!

Just after this we hit the final tough climb, or so they said, called "heartbreak" hill but I think it should be renamed to "heart attack" hill because it feels like your heart is going to jump out your chest by the time you get to the top. From the top of this there was a quick water stop before a long downhill to the beach.

Rob and Jason. Photo courtesy of Rob Mcloughlin

We finally emerged onto the beach by Scottburgh for the 500m along the beach of which I think I did about 150m before deciding that it is a bad idea riding in beach sand and pushed my bike the rest of the way. The final hill of the race was the one up to the finish at Scottburgh High School which was just plain mean and nasty of the organisers. Sid helped by pushing me like he had on numerous hills but no matter how much someone pushes, you still have to pedal it yourself.

Photo courtesy of Sani2C website

Finished! I had made it intact, a little sorry for myself but basically in good spirits.

After the finish we found some accommodation in Umkomaas and hung around until the prize giving that evening, mostly because there was a chance someone would win a Subaru Emprezza which would be a pretty awesome finale to the event. Alas it was not to be, for us that is!

After the prize giving we tried to find a restaurant but everything closes on the south coast at 21:30 so there was this mad race around scottburgh and umkomaas until we found the one and only restaurant in scottburgh that stays open late. It was just in time for rob, he was starting to gnaw on his fingers he was so hungry.

Day 3 summary : 71km, 1200m ascent, 80% maximum heart rate average, 3500kcal, 3:46 elapsed time.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Stuff White People Like

For an interesting view on "Stuff White People Like" have a look at the following link