Sunday, March 09, 2008

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.

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