Even last night, I was dreading today’s ride. Just from constant lack of sleep, rushing around, and obviously, never getting around to training. Any way you look at it, 120km was going to be a stretch today. I got home close to midnight, and without having supper. Thus the stage was already set for a more-difficult-than-it-needed-to-be-day.
When I woke up I did so reluctantly, and clung to the warmth of my bed for 5 more minutes, then another 5minutes, and then another 5. I got to the start on time and watched the lady write 100km then scratch it out and write 120km. I’d also called Berendine to confirm when and how far and she’d said 9am, 120km.
Just before the start they did a kind of roll call and gave phone numbers and other time-consuming details. And I was asked to remove my Zipp top since I don’t have team colors. So I just cycled in black polar tech, and black bib suit.
When we started I felt quite good, but as we went along I said to myself:
“Nick, I don’t want you in the wind. I don’t want you working in front. You haven’t been training so you need to hold back a lot.” It really wasn’t long after this, less than 2 minutes, that I found myself bridging a gap to a leading pack of 3, scorching my heartrate up to the day’s high of 176. The 3 guys I caught weren’t playing games, and although I immediately took a turn to work, it was a mistake because my heart rate was still way too high and we were heading for another major hill. So I let them go, thinking at least I was ahead of the pack and so could take this hill fairly easy while they caught up to me.
Except as they approached they jumped. Hard. So I fell back, but then slotted in with the same pack I worked with in Fauriesmith, including the Bionics girl and the guy I narrowly beat out in the sprint. So I thought it wasn’t a bad result, and my move had got the leading guys into a pattern of hard work early. We could settle in a rhythm and reel them in like we did last time.
I don’t know if it was lack of sleep, or irritation, but I rode progressively less intelligently. I rode a lot in the front 3; I felt strong on the climbs, and then wanted to get rid of the pack behind me who kept parasiting off my work, the Bionics girl’s efforts and an OFM rider’s exertions. I did at least 3 or 4 more leaps ahead (wasting energy) and they reeled me in each time.
Meanwhile we passed the 30km mark (and 60km turn around point), the 40km mark (and 80km turn around point) and of course we went by each of these. I did another hard push at about 48km and then found myself dying a bit as we got to 50km. I wasn’t eating enough, and now it was weakening me. Got quite a shock when I saw my entire pack turn, and when I went by, the flag guy didn’t call me back. When I got to the top of the hill I saw no one behind me or ahead of me, but did see more orange beacons further down the road. So I rode on and on, without seeing a single cyclist, and then didn’t know whether to turn into Dewetsdorp (at 56km) or keep going. But I did figure something was wrong. I stayed on the main road, then turned at 60km (on my Polar – there was nothing on the road), and then cycled through Dewetsdorp, partly to confirm that there was (was not as it turned out) a turnaround point, partly out of idle curiosity – wanted to see what the town looked like instead of cycling the same boring piece again.
Now I was cycling into a merciless headwind, and to make matters worse, my tank was empty. I just felt really tired – not in my legs, but in my body. In terms of energy.
It was a long, hard climb against the wind to just get back to the 50km turn around point, and from there I just felt really defeated and pissed off. Here I am at the most important race of the year and it’s a bugger up. And while I led my group for 80% or more of the 50km, it was that last 1km stretch where I fell back a bit, and because I was behind at that point there was no one to tell me to turn.
I also reached the startling realization that my dizziness was due to missing dinner last night, and eating very little else for most of the day.
By about 90km I pulled off the side of the road, and lay on a white cement slab picnic table, on my back, staring up at the gray, skeletal fingers of a dead trees, poking into the heartbreak-blue sky, its slim fingers tipped with delicate strips of yellow sunlight.
No water. Nothing to drink.
I fought across the next 20km and with 3km to go, a white car pitched up, turned and followed a modest distance behind me. Was quite pissed off. Just wanted to finish, get in my car and get a pizza. Didn’t want to talk to anyone.
With 1km to go I took my feet out of my shoes and then wound down.
Crossed the line in front of one car and then wheeled around to find out what the hell happened.
I saw her scribbling down my time so I said, “I’m not sure if there’s any point in doing that.”
“They changed the distances,” Lynn said. “You were supposed to cycle 100km.”
“So why were there cones at 55km?” I asked.
“We put those out yesterday.”
Then Lynn said, “I’m just going to put you down as DNF – did not finish.”
“No, I did finish. Put me down as ‘Cycled 120km’.
I don’t think she will because then it indicates they allowed a rider to do what I did. It doesn’t look good because it isn’t good.
Then I saw the silver Yaris – the only car in the parking lot, and a hopeful vulture waiting not far from it. Got in, turned on the CD player, clicked to track 6 (Let it go), and cruised out of there.
In the car I made a few calls – Fransa was sleeping and Justus was doing a photo shoot, and San Marie was shopping – but Elzanne was with her mom at Panarotti’s. I asked her to order one for me then joined them a few minutes later. Elzanne’s mom is quite hot. And also a teacher at Eunice. At first I thought she was Elzanne’s older sister or something. Had a nice chat.
The pizza and company put me on a bit of a better track. Although Elzanne said I looked ‘very angry’. I said I’m not angry, just disappointed and unhappy with the morning. Also a bit disturbed that only San Marie called me to find out how it went. I mean, my car was the last car in the lot. Surely someone must have clicked that something went wrong?
Went home, had a bath and got a bit of sleep, and then Fransa came over. We both had a bit of an attitude to each other but then we made up and had a nice night together.
I don’t think I want to go to SA’s now. My spirit is a bit broken. I am still keen on doing the time trial, but haven’t solved getting there and am not sure if it worth the expense of renting a car or flying. Maybe it is. Will think about it this week. At least I got in a tough, hard core training session today. Certainly, of all the riders there today, I had the hardest day on the bike.
HR avg: 147 (max 176)
Avg speed: 27.4km/h