Sunday, July 15, 2007

...Contrast cont. (The End of RASA2007)

Something really different this year was the aspect of group riding. At times I rode alone, savouring the solitude that can only be experienced out there, at other times there were 10 of us together working our way through a difficult navigation section.
Mentally it is a lot easier doing the race with so many people around you, but then a whole new set of challenges are delivered to you. You have to deal with the pace of moving a bunch (which is slower, because you need to stop for each person's problems), interpersonal relationships, and fighting for a shower at the end of the day when 10 stinky cyclists pitch at the same time all wanting to get themselves sorted out as soon as possible.
The times I spent alone were an absolute pleasure - these are the times when you can truly admire the beauty of the trail. Once you move in your own world, you become much more receptive to the environment around you. That said, when riding alone you are much more susceptible to mental meltdown - there is no one to talk you out of your misery, tell a joke, or moan more than you!
It is quite strange how quickly strong friendships form in an event like this. Very early in the race I had already clicked with Andy and Earle, although I was not riding together with them all the time, but at the support stations we would share rooms together, and generally look out for each other on the trail. Little did we know on Day 2 that we would finish the race together. The bonds developed over the course of the race can be seen by Gerrit's actions when he brought me parts from Jhb. At many times later in the race I was planning on pushing on and try to finish earlier, but the thought of not finishing with Earle and Andy would hold me back, and in the end I finished with them, probably a lot more satisfied than if I had gone on alone.

Andy and Earle

I don't know how Earle finished the race - Myprodol, and a lion heart seemed to get him through everyday, sometimes comfortably, but in other times I could feel his pain. I think it was a struggle to put one foot in front of the other for him, after he tore ankle ligaments on the fifth day of the race. Luckily we had Andy, always smiling, always with something funny to say, and always positive. There was no time for moping in our little group. Andy was our morale, Earle was our inspiration, and I tried to keep us moving forward at a good pace.

And finally, personally - obviously this race has a major effect on one's outlook in life. The people you meet, and the generosity shown make you think twice about how you treat others. The race itself was "easier" this time. I was under no pressure to perform, all I had to do was finish. The bike, however silly, was a pleasure to ride - ride when you can, walk when you can't, no worries about trying to ride up steep hills, riding faster etc. All I did was ride what I could - easy.

My body held out exceptionally well - a slight sore throat after the snow in Molteno, sore ribs after a fall in the Baviaanskloof, and a sore ankle from the walk out of Stettynskloof. There were other aches and pains, but nothing to hamper the progress of the race. No sore hands, kidneys, legs, ass or other body parts from riding a rigid bike (Ass was a bit sore form riding fixed, but it soon recovered). The body is a fantastic thing - it soon adapts to what is thrown at it, and gets on with the job.

The only day I struggled was the long flat day from Willomore to Prince Albert, but that was more out of frustration of not being able to go faster, than fatigue. Every other day I would find something new about the trail, about my body, about my riding mates - at no stage was there any sense of boredom, although at the end I was dreaming of nice fresh clean clothes, and just being able to call Corrinne when I felt like it. Not being able to talk to her whenever I wanted was really hard again!

That's a brief summary of my race - so many more stories, opionions, and experiences, but these will come out over time every time I recount the race to someone new.

Next year? Sure - just have to work out how to up the challenge.... Tandem anyone?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about a Tandem bike next year with one set of pedals and you take Gerrit with to repay him for the parts he brought.

Jan Louw

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi ya...

i'll go tandem with you!!!! you can cycle and i'll enjoy the lift! lol.... it would honestly be an honour and an experience of a lifetime to be able to do something like that with you!.... first brother/sister combo...i like the sound of that!

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Earle said...

Hey Andre

You have really hit the nail on the head mate.The way this race forms relationships and brings out {in most cases}the real person inside.I notice though that you have not mentioned how you actually can walk up hill with your bike accross your shoulders at 6kph! While when i could ride a hill it was @ 4-5kph.You are a great athlete and i look forward to riding with you in the near future.


5:41 PM  

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