Sunday, March 30, 2008


You know you're suffering from acute sleep deprivation when getting up, and getting dressed in the morning is as difficult and mentally exhausting as a Trigonometry Exam. This morning was the second morning in a row that I left home chronically sleep deprived, and as it would turn out, I'd pay a fairly hefty price later in the day.

A, H and me left Houghton at about 5:30am and headed towards Bronkhorstspruit - that's the Pretoria side of Johannesburg. These guys both work at high levels at Standard Bank so we talked [in confidence] a bit about Billiton firing the bank for a comment someone made. We had an idea to better deal with load shedding - have an sms system in place that alerts particular regions (it just so happens that networks are based on regional infrastructure too) - via sms - that they are about to exceed their capacity. People in that area can then respond immediately to this direct communication.

Anyhoo, A and H went off to do their 146km race just before 7am. I did the 107km |(which, unless my HR is faulty, turned out to be just under 104km).
On the very first hill I felt cold and tight and stiff, and the guys pulled away right away. A group of us chased them, but they slowly drifted away. Then at about 20km or so, if not sooner, two teams - guys in orange and guys in red, white and black - all with deep rims, all in good shape - cruised by us at high speed. I jumped on, and so did another guy in a white Eskom shirt. We motored. For a short while we all took turns working together - this is the beauty of cycling. It looked and felt like a team time trial, and those rims all parting the wind like blades.

Riding in this group I realised how hard the first bunch were going - the bunch that pulled away on the first climb. We sucked in the ladies bunch, and kept right on going. I think we only caught the bunch we'd lost in the 1st kim at 50km - this was with very strong riders.

I was feeling good at this point, and it felt especially good to be the first rider to connect with the bunch. The guys made a few stabs, but in the end I put in the last effort. And as I say, at that point I was sitting pretty.

When I reached 60km I said to the Eskom dude that I was fast approaching my endurance limit - that in the next few km I'd have to start gritting my teeth. Even I didn't have any idea how true that was. If you'd been watching from above in a helicopter it must have looked quite interesting, if not funny. I'd cruise down on the downhills ahead of the pack (this is the original spoedvark bunch fortified with the time-trial team) and so build momentum up the drags, which I was finding to be getting tougher and tougher. Then on the drags almost all the guys would slowly drift by me, but by the time we reached the top, I'd be at the back, but still in touch.

I don't know how many times it happened, but it happened a lot. I realised once again just how much heavier I am than these guys. I mean there's no way it's just a question of being more aero on the downhills.

At about 70km I just couldn't stay in touch, and then I went backwards badly, and quickly. Up until then my average was about 36km/h. On the HR graph you can see my heartrate starts to slip downwards at this point, and at the same time, there is a constant upward climb. My legs just couldn't handle it; and I couldn't figure it out. Am this freaking unfit? The last 10km were a nightmare. A muscle on my inner left leg was threatening to pull, and that is very very eina. I used my easiest gears for the last few kilometres and limped home in 3:03. Averaging 33.9km/h (in other words, with fewer uphills, I did this slower than the Argus.

It was only when I arrived home that I noticed my seatpost was about 2-3cm lower than it should have been. See, I'd taken my bike in to the bike shop for a service, and the guy must have removed the seatpost to clean it. He'd put it back a lot lower. I only picked this up when I got home - my legs totally wasted. It's some consolation that the last 30km of vrotness wasn't due to lack of fitness, but my muscles trying to figure out how a racing bike had suddenly become a knee buckling BMX.

A had an incredible ride. He broke away at 50km (with 100km to go) and stayed away with 4 or 5 other guys. Quite amazing how strong he is. H came in about 10 minutes after A - and wryly thanked him for making the ride so tough.

More cycling news: Fietstoer is at Burgersdorp right now. Maritza had a pretty nasty fall on a downhill. She says her whole left side has dark blue bruises. And the rider behind her basically rode over her. I said she must put ice on the bruises, when the skin is cold massage till it is warm, and repeat a few times. Just gets more blood into the tissue to accelerate tissue restoration.

Also spoke to Lizaan - shame she has laryngitis. Not nice to start off and your voice is gone. I know, I had the same problem last year. But it got better.

We're thinking of going down to do the Kimberley to Bloem ride, end of May I think - 180km. Need to start getting the basics right in the meantime, like enough shuteye.

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