Monday, 22 April 2013

Riding a rainy running race and winning a mountain bike race: cold, wet, muddy fun!

I was prepared and strangely excited for a rainy day at the Cradle Mountain Trophy, I love the riding out there and the rain and mud would just add to the challenge! However, waking up to the sound of torrential rain, I poked a toe out from under the blanket and quickly retracted it. It was freezing!! I would be lying if I said that curling back up into bed didn't cross my mind a couple of times. But no, I said I would do the race and I knew I would enjoy it once I was out there, so I dragged myself out of bed and phoned my friend Michelle awake. We were going to do this! The drive along the N14 was treacherous, we had to leave at 5 30am and it was pitch dark for the entire drive, the rain was still pelting down and the roads were full of aqua planes that couldn't be seen. Eventually we arrived at Maropeng, the sun had come up and rain died down, but it was still freezing cold. I heard that the start had been postponed ‘till 8, maybe the rain would clear up by then. A lot of people who made it to the race changed their mind and went back home, what ever happened to HTFU?

Day 1 was cancelled anyway due to overflowing rivers, not even the support vehicles could cross them. I was really disappointed that it we weren't going to race, I was all psyched!! Chatting to Rob Jackson from Leverage Corporation and the other race organisers, they were getting ready for the trail run and needed a lead mountain biker. “Amy will do it! She’s crazy enough.” Couldn’t argue with them there. I’ll do it! May as well, I was all dressed with nowhere to go and this would be fun, something out of the ordinary and at least I’d get to ride!
Michelle volunteered to ride as the sweeper for the 8km, soon after we agreed to this the rain started full force again and we were shaking with cold. An impressive die hard bunch of 50 runners gathered under the start gazebo. There were two distances, 8km and 16km (2 laps). All I had to do was ride ahead of the leader and follow the blue arrows, easy enough! Luckily the leading guy was so fast, he won by miles and even had some breath to chat, we finished in 1:10 minutes but they needed a sweeper for the rest of the 16km runners, so off I went again, lap 3, caught up to the last runner / walker and kept him company till the end, turns out he is an Epic Sports club member and keen mtber. I must say, I haven’t been that cold in ages and a hot shower, lunch at Papachinos and nap was the best thing ever!
Leverage Corporation made the best compromise they could for us, postponed the 75km for the 2 day riders till Sunday and kept the 45km for the 1 day racers. I was happy we at least got to do the 75km.

Sunday morning was nippy and shrouded in mist but soon cleared up and turned out to be a stunner of a day! The neutral zone was a long stretch of tar road, finally we turned onto a dirt district road where the pace went up and the small lead group consisting of Lourens Luus, Henry Uys and a few other guys disappeared into the distance. I kept a comfortable pace, 75km in Magaliesberg is not to be underestimated! I made sure to start eating and drinking my High 5 early on to avoid bonking. After a super fast start on the district road, we headed into some awesome single track with river crossings and a portage section over a bridge crossing a river. My Sidi cycling shoes were wet and muddy, so I had to tread carefully carrying my Pinarello Dogma XC over the slippery bridge and onto a cement wall which had a massive gap in it, most people could probably step over it but short legs me had to hold my breath and jump across, bike in hand. Phew, made it! I scrambled up the muddy rocky uphill that followed and got back into a rhythm through some more single track and had to portage up a section of another rocky climb as my muddy tyres slipped out from under me.

At about 49km in, I saw an arrow pointing down a small road off the district road we were on , it didn’t seem right but I went down anyway. I carried on for a km or 2 and when I saw no one behind or ahead of me I turned back, uphill the whole way. At the split, there was another confused cyclist, not sure what to do, we waited and got passed by a guy who told us not to go left but carry on straight. I was super frustrated at all the time I had lost but I was still winning luckily. After the race I heard that loads of people made the same wrong turn, due to a badly placed arrow. That was comforting; I wasn’t going completely mad ;).

I was happy to cross the line in 1st place. The route had a great mixture of single track, river crossing, challenging technical sections, rocks, mud and fast district roads. My Pinarello is looking forward to a good TLC session with the trusty mechanics at Epic Sports!
Overall I really enjoyed the weekend, the Leverage Corporation sure know how to run an event! The running race was an interesting experience and, if anything, makes for a good story J. The mountain bike race was just amazing, riding the Pinarello is dreamy :D.  

Next up is Clarens, yiesh! Until then, later!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Night Rider Series #3 Respect the dark.

There is something so magical, almost taboo about night riding. When everyone else is performing their mundane night time routines; sitting down to dinner, watching TV, or tucking the kids in, we are riding our mountain bikes, having an adventure, with only a small mounted light as a guide.
The night is alive with the sound of crickets and evening birds and the steady crunching sound of our tyres against the gravel. It is a totally new world. Mere trees during the day become ominous shadows of night time monsters, watching with beady eyes. A rock during the day is a rock, solid and unmoving. But at night, they come alive. They play tricks on you, one will hide in the shadow of another, popping out just when you are about to go straight into it. You have to be quick, you have to alert, you have to respect the dark. If you don’t, or lose focus, (like I did almost a year ago, breaking my collarbone), you will come out second best!
Every Thursday, our night ride used to be the highlight of my week, followed by a scrumptious meal and a few beers at the famous Ed’s Diner! Our title sponsor; a[s]g Sports holds a monthly night race at Rosemary Hill in Pretoria. I was ecstatic to hear that I was entered and would be representing our a[s]g MTB Academy, this would be my first night ride since the crash, I couldn’t wait!
The weather was chilly but the vibe on the start line was electric, everyone lined up with their lights shining, chatting away keen for the challenge ahead. There were hundreds of riders participating; I imagined that the the start chute must have looked like the Milky Way from above!
When the gun went, the front guys set off in what seemed to me to be a flat out sprint. I went out hard but kept it steady. Up the first drag, I somehow found myself alone, the leaders a few hundred meters ahead of me and the galaxy of blinking lights a few hundred meters behind. This was how it was for most of the remainder of the race. I passed a hand full of guys but otherwise it was just me, and the magic of the night! The single track was twisty and turny with about 5 bridges; the corners would catch me off guard at times adding to the thrill! There were a few minor drops, some stairs, some challenging rocky parts and loads of fast forest single track, My Pinarello 29er was lapping it up! After the floating bridge, I started to worry that I was lost. I could literally see no one behind or ahead of me, so every a[s]g reflective arrow came as a relief. I was still on track! Or was I...?? It can get quite ominous out there!
It seemed far too soon that I rode through the gates at Rosemary Hill; 21km was definitely too short for that much fun! As I rode over the start line, the commissure congratulated me for being the 10th man in, uh excuse me? I decided not to take it personally and blamed the dark ;)
I was greeted by a group of my fellow Academy members, Arno had come third in a sprint finish with Adolf Krige, Byron Ferreira taking the win, just 10 seconds ahead of them. Marcel had an excellent result, coming 4th, Kyle Wool was 6th, Jacques Pretorius 7th and Edwill came 9th. I was happy to see Angie come in 2nd and Petru 3rd, the ladies podium was fully fluo!
As usual we had our “Chill Zone” the Academy trailer set up with Epic Sports gazebos and chairs. There was coffee, refreshments and food for sale, and bonus: there was a bon fire which was a saving grace as I was freezing!

After prize giving my friend Jason and I went to join my old night ride group at Ed’s Diner for a scrumptious dinner and good catch up session.
A well organised event with great company and, of course, awesome mountain biking made for a really fun night out! Thanks to a[s]g and our Academy, I am looking forward to the next one!