Tuesday, October 21, 2008

AMASHOVA - Race Report

For a couple of reasons, I woke up fairly groggy on race day (a very damp morning). Unusually I forgot a couple of things - such as the nozzle you use to regulate the CO2 from your bomb into your valve, and my racing chip. When we arrived at the race, our group began to split up, so that when we left, there were just four of us (Mark, Diana, myself and Lance).

Just before we went off the announcer approached me and asked about our trip from Johannesburg. It must have seemed a little strange to see just 4 or 5 of us, whereas the Bionic guys and Dad's charity seemed a far larger group (and in reality, the Standard Bank guys were just as big if not bigger).

When we set off Mark took off like a shot, and after about 1km we had disconnected off the front (about 8 of us), and Mark almost collided with a motorcycle and a cone. I was flustered by this, enough not to notice Diana had pulled off to one side. I continued to chase Lance and Mark, remaining just a few metres behind, but thinking this was far too quick for a 106km. I eventually ran out of steam probably three quarters of the way up the hill, and still thought: "Gee, Diana did well to stick with them..."

It was sort've a shock, having cycled 510 odd kilometres and suddenly being on my own. Well, of course I wasn't. There was a whole train of nameless riders sliding by on my left. You can see on the graph below that my efforts were fairly haphazard and erratic. An initial chase followed by a few successive 'indecisive periods'.

I encountered Roberto - Diana's partner - fairly early on, who asked me if I had seen Diana and I was pretty confident I hadn't. He went on ahead, then went back and I think eventually found her, no thanks to me.

My chain lopped off my big chain ring and for once did not slide back over, but caught on my pedal, which bent the front derailleur's ear to the right. This mean I was unable, for a while, to ride on the small chainring. It was at this point that I also realised: you left valve tap in your other cycling shirt, so if you get a puncture, you're screwed.

It was while puzzling over these dilemmas that I caught up to Shamus and Rob (both marshals in the Pounds group). I was given some good advice to kick the ear into place, and after a weak attempt at this while the chain was riding on the big chainring, I geared down and knocked at it until it slotted over. This did the trick. Not long after this a group whizzled by and I drifted off with them. I started riding harder at this point. It was very cold, the air moist but the roads not really slippery. That said, a few bodies were lying on the shoulder here and there, apparently unconscious.

I had a good hour or so where I surged through the traffic, with a few guys leeching onto me, some falling off, or else I became a parasitic creature. The wind was fairly strong, and the scenery awesome. I found the section from 50km to 80km particularly hard, because I was done climbing at this point (and the climbs just kept on coming). And I think because the fatigue was really getting to me, and on the whole trip, we seldom covered more than 60km at a time. The other thing was, mentally, I knew we were going down to Durban, and yet there were so many climbs (over 1000m!).

Some of the bigger climbs I enjoyed, like Botha's Hill. Some of it was terrifically scenic. What I didn't enjoy were the many small 'bumps'. One bump, fine. But there were dozens. If you refer to the relief map above, the brown profile line shows virtually no flat sections. The many downhills also influence the heart rate level I suppose.

By 70km I was starting to feel a little dizzy. I think, like Andrew Sommerville, I had just become too weary to drink. In the last 20km I pulled away from our group (about 20 riders) on the downhills, and stayed away. 2 riders drifted across, one fell away, and on probably the last big climb with 10km to go, I fell away from my helper. The next 10km were on my own, but through some spectacular scenery - dropping down into Durban with the highway all to myself. Unfortunately, the wind was blasting upwards from the sea, negating the possibility of going downhill fast.

I passed a few Standard Bank riders. None of them were from our group though, with the exception of John Potter, who I passed early on - maybe at 35km.

I had an awesome final 3-4km. Riding beneath the canyon of tall buildings in downtown Durban. 3 or 4 guys caught me at this point, and thenjustas quickly 3 of them fell off. Me and a Bionics guy worked hard for the last 3 kilometres, swishing by two long flotillas. And in the last 500 metres I went in front and didn't sprint, but just pushed hard. He stayed behind me as we went over the line. 3:25. A mediocre time - but what a great feeling to arrive at the finish right on the beach after 4 days - almost 21 hours - on the road.

I actually had no clue where everyone was and somehow bumbled my way to the bike park next to Mimmos (I remembered they'd said something about Mimmos). It wasn't so great arriving after everyone, when it seemed they had already swum in the sea, and were eating and relaxing. But it felt great, as I say, to have finished.

Was good to chill at Mimmos over pizza and listen to everyone's stories. I also had a nice walk on the beach - some alone time. At one point, after I had swum in the sea, my eyes still stinging from sun, salt and sea, I pressed my towel against my face and in the coarse darkness of the towel, felt the beach under my feet, the sun on my skin. I felt alive and rooted to reality.

My stats say it all:

Avg hr: 137 (low, which shows how pooped I was) 163 max, which was a beat better than I managed on Griffin Hill.
Distance: 105km
Speed: 30.8km/h (max: 72.3km/h
Alt avg: 594m (910m max/0m min)
Temp: 13 min/17 avg/ 26 max
Ascent: 1085m
KCal: 2980
Time: 3:25

In 4 days I trained 3 times my average weekly volume (thus it equates to a 600% increase in effort). This week I will do 7.5 hours, and next week 9, thereafter I will try to consistently produce low double figures (11, 12, 13).

Legs are still helluva sore today, but feeling slimmer and stronger. Triathlon this weekend.

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