I must confess, like my blogging these past 3 months, my training program went sadly lacking… I did train. But not nearly enough. I also tried something new. Instead of my usual February midday training sessions (summer here, remember…) I trained at night in front of my television set. Doing a few Sufferfest training sessions- really good training material!
But so, last Sunday, 6 March, the day dawned on my 21st race…
And for once it was a nearly perfect day! Last year’s race had to be shortened a lot because of Table Mountain burning, and all the soot in the air threatening our lungs. In previous races the Southeasterly wind blew a lot- one year up to 12o km/h. But this year- blue skies, no wind, no smoke… perfect!
I knew from the start that I have committed the grave sin of undertraining. I went slowly up Hospital hills, and then suffered a LOT up the 2 km of Edinburgh Drive… I did manage to ride to the top of this hellish climb. Then, on the Blue Route I felt as if this day just might be survivable… managing speeds of up to 72 km/h on the slight downhills.
At the Naval Base of Simonstown I started feeling quite poorly. A slight wind was now blowing from the front, and the heat picked up a bit. On through Millers Point and over Smitswinkel Bay I felt some strain. But when you reach halfway, there is a long slight downhill, with the wind in your back. That part was really good. On through the beautiful and spooky Scarborough and onwards to Noordhoek I pedalled. But then it started to heat up quite a lot (according to me…)
At the base of the beautiful Chapman’s Peak Drive is a lovely place called Noordhoek Farm Village. For the first time ever I stopped there. Went to their restaurant, and ordered a cup of filter coffee. I was seriously contemplating abandoning the race, as I just felt drained. After the cup of coffee I soldiered on towards Chappies. But I knew I was in trouble. I had a hard time breathing, and my heart rate monitor showed that I was above maximum heart rate- 220 minus your age. At about halfway up Chapmans Peak drive I had to pull over. And then, with the heat and the heartrate going through the roof, I had to walk the last km of Chappies- it felt like a walk of shame! Over the top, I made time up- it is a good 4-5 km of downhill, sweeping turns, dodging slower cyclistts- as a motorcyclist I am really good at downhill riding! But then- the dreaded Suikerbossie Drive in Hout Bay. First a 1 km climb, coming back down again, and then a 2 km steep incline. As I entered the smaller Suikerbossie my legs just loced up solid in a cramp. I could barely manage to turn my ankle to get my shoe out of the pedal. Some spectators helped me to the sidewalk, and I had to lay down in the shade till the cramps subsided. And then I had to walk the 2 km up again to the top of Suikerbossie…
In order to qualify for a medal, you have to finish the race under 7 hours. As I walked up to Suikerbossie’s top, I realised that I had already used up 6 1/2 hours. To get to the finish line from here is usually more than half an hour for me… Was all the suffering going to be a total waste of time? Still cramping, I got on my bicycle, and started chasing the clock to be in time for my medal. And it was bad! It is a beautiful stretch of road, going past Llundudno, and the 12 Apostles Hotel, and then through Campsbay, Clifton, Bantry Bay, onwards to the finish line at the Greenpoint Stadion. Most of it is downhill. And a lot of riders, having had a better ride than me, slow down just to enjoy the scenery. But me, cramping a lot and in pain, tried my best to reach the cutoff time.
When I finally passed the finish line I looked at my watch. I have made it, but with only minutes to spare… my worst time ever, including the 120 km/h wind race a few years back. But it counted! At this time I was really in pain. I had to go to an Info tent to go and claim my special 21 st medal. And then, feeling the strain, I went and booked myself into the medical tent. I was feeling dizzy and very thirsty. The medical staff took over, tested my pulse, and blood pressure. My pulse kept on racing at 12o, where I usually go back quickly to 65/70. The other problem was when my blood sugar levels were tested, it was up at 11.3. I have never been diabetic, but in the struggle to finish I have taken on too much sports drinks…
But I had my medal. It has taken 21 years to get this medal.
I might still be the slowest cyclist in my home town. I may not always look like an athlete.
But: I have a 21 Cycle Tours medal. And from next year I am riding with the Argus’ sought after Blue Number, being a member of Club 21.
I really doubted that I would finish this year’s race. But maybe Winston Churchill was right when he said: “Never, never, never, never, never give up…”