Monday, 16 July 2012

Olympics Excitement!!!

Last year I applied for tickets & as a joke chose Men's Volleyball, completely forgetting that there are two categories of volleyball. Needless to say out of all the tickets I applied for, I got Men's Volleyball. Correct NOT Beach Volleyball.

In May I was prompted by a Facebook status from one of my friends that LOCOG released more tickets. After loads of phaffing to try & get onto the Olympic website I miraculously managed to get my hands on two of these. I couldn't belief my luck & are very excited about it!

On 11 August, I'll be watching the World's XC Elite Women Mountainbikers racing for gold including South Africa's own Candice Neethling.

Friday, 6 July 2012

My MTB tunes ♪♪♪

These are my favourites. Lots of them have been inspired by Redbull TV or Mountainbike videos on youtube or whatever was on the charts that we listened to on a weekend away.... Enjoy!

Pump up the music on your ride.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Black Mountains 3 Day Stage Race

The decision:
It was November last year when the first seed was sown to do my first MTB Stage race. I've always said that I don't want to do anything that could possibly put me off mountainbiking for the rest of my life, therefore I'm always reluctant to commit to something bigger than our normal social ride on a weekend.
Well that all said... I thought Wales...I've cycled in some of those parts before & was capable to cope then, so 3 days are at least not 8 days, I don't have to pay an arm & a leg, I don't have to get a visa to go across to Europe, the green mamba can get me to Wales, so why not.

The training:
Photo: Stephne van Niekerk
Before I knew it we were training for BM3D in the Brecon Beacons. It started off in winter with some spinning in the week & one weekend ride. Suddenly driving down to Dorking & doing a 25km loop became taking the train down to Dorking & do an out & back including a bit of singletrack fun. We recently cut out the train & our usual 60k ride turned out to be 80k or even 120k. The week before the race I couldn't help but ask myself, since when is it normal for me to cycle 80k on a weekend & feel fine afterwards or act as if I've always been doing it???
A lot of our training was riding through mud, in retrospect, it was good preparation. The more mud, the more fun. :)

Day 1 - 10.4km Prologue/Time trail  

Our plan was to set off at 11'ish wish I anticipated correctly would be 12'ish. Simon was blessed with the company of 3 divas & we kept ourselves & the rest of the "MTB Planning" whatsapp group entertained all the way to Wales. I was more excited to see the rest of our group (about 16 of us) at our arrival than the actual riding - I'm not a lap rider & I don't like the race atmosphere or the build-up to the start of a race.

The divas kind of stayed together during the Prologue. Liezl bombed down the hills, Cecilia & I caught up with her on the hills again. I saw a spectacular crash just after one of the guys sped passed me. The course was short enough not to have broken our spirits for what lied ahead on Saturday.
In the queue for the bikewash
Photo: Jason Wentzel
A quick bike wash and last tweaks to my gears by The Bikedoctor (Jason) was made.
We had dinner, met Dave, the Bearded Man & enjoyed the prizes of the day. And then we had our race briefing. It was thorough & left me thinking, "What am I doing here, what have I signed myself up for?" Liezl & I were left looking at each other big eyed & shaking our heads.

The Bearded Man - David Warren
Photo: Charlotte Knee Photography
Day 2 - 67km

Saturday morning started with a police lead out & a few drops of rain. Once we were on some singletrack it started to feel like a mountainbike race to me. One brainfailure incident, gearing up instead of down resulted in being left behind by my partners. At the bottom of an enormous hill that was completely unrideable I caught up with Liezl & Simon again. I was so glad to see familiar faces. Cecilia was also just behind us. The divas stayed closed together. Liezl was taking the lead in the downhills the same as in the Prologue & this was a regular occurance for the rest of the weekend.

Soon we saw the sign 5km to the feeding station. There was other ladies with us & I wanted to stay with them, but somehow I lost confidence & got to impatient going downhill on all the mud & started slipping & sliding all over the place, so much so that I fell 20 meters in front of the photographer, pressure. :)

Cecilia & I caught up with Liezl @ the feeding station where we also saw Si & Louis. The next minute I saw Stu sitting in a little bundle. He went into a tree on the last steep downhill before the feeding station & was in enormous pain. I ate my homemade sandwiches & we tried to get some of the 7 kinds of mud from our bikes by dipping it into the river & giving it an organic wash. This was a nice break & it was tempting to just stay there.

Photo taken by Charlotte Knee Photography

Shortly we were under way & back onto the steady climb to I think the highest point of the day. We passed a few people as we made our way to the top where we were met with Jamie another one of the friendly marshalls. The descent was rocky, but cool, got a kick out of it for doing it as it was technical. I recognised part of the route as we were descending from a previous race I did here in 2010, it was a bit off camber. My concentration started going from trying to stay on the thin line... So I stopped to camp out on the slope for a bit, but as soon as I hit the ground, I started cramping in my right thigh. So it was quite a scene when Cecilia arrived, by then I was just laughing & it was over. A few emergency sips from my High 5 Zero neutral flavour & we were back on the road. Another rocky descent and onto a steepish climb & some flat grassland... This is suppose to be quick riding, but with all the rain, this turned out to be quite a slog. I've made peace with it quite early on that I might have to push my bike more than I wanted to. There was no point to try & stay on if it was going to cost more energy & time to stop & start all the time & by then I was also quite fed-up of falling so wanted to avoid that as I knew I was getting tired & didn't want to injure myself. Finally we were rewarded by a fast descent along the wall & down to the next danger point. We soon realised that the danger points were more rideable than what we initially expected, so we rode them, but took caution. :)

John, our favourite marshall
Photo: Charlotte Knee Photography 
One of the guys in the same 'time zone' as us somehow when we were riding up all the hills, were pushing up all the hills, BUT would bomb passed us on the downhills again. It was after this last dangerous descent that I said to Liezl, this is not going to happen again. We caught up with him again, just to be overtaken by him again on the "stick walk." We attempted to ride the top part & last part of this ridiculous part of the course, but as soon as I mounted my bike at the bottom part I went right over the handlebars, but manage to land fairly soft & also managed that my bike did not land on top of me. I gave up & pushed to the bottom. I fell behind Liezl & this other guy, so I was gunning down the tar road to try & catch up with them. I wasn't even sure if I was following the right route as there was no blue ribbons in sight, but also no pink ribbons to indicate that I went off course & then there they were on the last ascent at the gate. We went passed the guy & I said to Liezl, he is not going to catch us again. We were like horses who smelled home, so even though we were tired & our legs was complaining, we kept climbing this climb that felt like it was never going to end. We crossed the finish line together (well Liezl was so keen to wash her bike that she didn't even see the finishing banner & I had to call her back over) as if we were the first riders to be back. Our time 7:05:15.

Day 2 - Done!

Photo: Zane Smith
Back at camp, I've opted out of the bikewash queue & made my way over to the showers. I managed to convince the boys to make us proper coffee & Stu high on his painkillers happily obliged. He also washed my bike for me later on, so I scored big time. Thanks Stu.

Photo: Charlotte Knee 
As this was my first stage race, I have nothing to compare it with, but it was so much fun as everybody was a 'winner'. Our table managed to pick up a few Gore Windstopper Jackets & some other prizes. I think the highlight of the evening was when the guy from Singular invited the tallest men that did not own a 29er frame to enter a competition. 4 guys stepped up to the challenge. 2 of them were the exact same height, which lead to an off the cuff arm wrestle. Everybody was on there feet & cheering Mike & Jason on, it was tight & Jason held out as long as possible, but eventually Mike had the upper hand. What a cool way for anyone to win a 29er frame!
Photo: Charlotte Knee

The arm wrestle
Photo: Charlotte Knee 
Day 3 - 77km

In the briefing Dave promised us that day 3 would be faster & less muddy. It would've been hard to belief that anything can get more muddy than they day before.
I'd like to quote The Bearded Man before I start with the rest: "If you see a gate & there is no ribbon, don't make your own trail."
Riders had the option to start 15 minutes earlier. As I mentioned, I don't like the race pressure & all the hardcore people upfront makes me nervous. I was happy to start @ the original 9am start.
We were relieved to hear that the weather overnight was pretty bad & that we were not going back into the timetrail area. Bad weather does have it's blessings. :-)

So we took some tar roads out to get to the first climb of the day, The Tramline. This was so enjoyable, the gradient was nice & once you were in a good rhythm you were just able to keep on pedalling. From here followed a nice rocki-ish descent & then the hill Dave said he measured his fitness on every year. I'm grateful that I don't have past experience of that hill & therefore I don't have to measure my fitness on that hill. :)

From there it was a long fire road climb. I was cycling with another South African from Winchester as we went up that hill. He asked me, "Am I going mad or can I hear noises?" On which I replied, "No, you are not mad, a farmer was working with his sheep & you could hear the sheep go crazy for as long as we were in the valley." To me it sounded as if it was a crowd of people (in Wales the sheep might as well be people) cheering us on from a distance. I picked up a nice pace & wanted to catch Liezl, so I went off & enjoyed the long descent.

At the bottom of this descent, was if I think back in retrospect, possibly the only time where I could've potentially had some SOH (sense of humour) failure. Seriously the longest & steepest roadclimb, it was completely unnecessary. Somehow I found some guts & determination & didn't unclip to push my bike although I considered it a few times, but by setting small goals of I'll unclip once I've made it up to that point & then I get there & somehow my legs just kept on going. I was chuffed to get to the top, I didn't dare to look behind me so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Cecilia was right behind me.
From here it was 5k's down to the feeding station. Possibly the longest 5ks of the day & also the muddiest part of the course. Somehow as soon as you know the distance to a feed station you naturally want to go faster, but that is exactly the time when things starts going wrong, as you get impatient & start making mistakes. We were rewarded with a HUGE BOG OF MUD just before the feeding station. It was all over the path & the only way to get through was to hit the middle. I stayed calm & in my low gears & just kept on pedalling, my front wheel almost disappeared completely. I was so chuffed to get through it without falling over. It reminded me off the Hellrunner Bog of Doom that I did a few years ago.
There was more hills & some frustrating 'wettish/slippery' singletrack that made me impatient, because I wanted to get to the Gap climb. I've done it before so I knew what to expect. Another long fireroad climb, I was able to see Liezl & she thankfully waited for me at the start of the Gap climb. It was great to roll up the Gap at a nice pace & then we were getting ready for the rather bumpy descent.

It was on this descend that I just prayed & said, "Thank you Lord for shocks." It is amazing, how you can just roll over the rocks. I stayed on the lines of how the water flowed & was just amazed at how nature shows you the best way. At one point I tried to change gears, but there was just nothing my left thumb (with a past injury) didn't want to move... it was one of that moments where you try about 3 times & then realise to give up & make peace with the gear that you are in. Halfway down I looked ahead & I just saw a blackspot! Liezl fell & was lieing fairly still. I wanted to rush over, but obviously I didn't want to fall in my rush getting to her. Thankfully by the time I got there she was back up & on her bike.
As we reached the bottom I thought, yay we must be close to home now. John was waiting for us & warned us about the next section, starting with a little drop & about a kilometre of boulders through a very narrow overgrown trail. I'd like to change Dave's qoute reference this piece of track, "Make your own trail!" This piece of trail was enough to push you over into the Sense of Humour failure terrain, but thankfully we were not going there today.

We reached the field with the young bulls that Dave warned us about . Another lady who we passed during the day & then she passed us again, was waiting for us at the gate, she was so glad to see us. To of the bulls were giving her trouble & wouldn't let her passed. Together we crossed the fields & the bulls didn't disturb us. Me being a farmgirl didn't have much sympathy with her to be honest & thought she made it up. I mean you can't be dominated by a young bull, just ride fast & with confidence - you have to show them who is boss.
We cycled with her for a bit, until she pulled away when we reached the Canal.
I can not tell you how relieved & grateful I was when we cycled passed the gate towards the last climb of Day 1, realising that The Bearded Man was kind enough to not punish us with that climb on the last day.
The last 5k's was definately the hardest. My legs started feeling tired, all I kept repeating to myself was, Dig Deep & Hou net aan met trap (Keep on pedalling.)

Rolling into the finish filled me with a great sense of accomplishment & excitement.

It's over, what next? :-)

My aim was to finish under 7 hours & we did. :-)

It was great to be congratulated by our friends who waited at the Finish or came to the Finish - Thank you!

Quotes from the weekend:

Andy: "This is the last time I'm going to be this clean."
Liezl: "Ek kan stoot." "I can push"
TC: "My next set of wheels is a scooter"
Stuart: "The hospital gave me good drugs."
Is Andy still phaffing?

Will I do it again?
YES & YES & YES!!!
From the first time I got the e-mail invite & link from Myburgh the content of the website was so welcoming & the event came across well organised & that really contributed to me saying yes to this. And that is exactly what it was all the way through, the build-up, the information that we needed was provided at the right time & the whole weekend was a great success. Thank you Dave!

One week after the race, my Gore Windstopper arrived as promised. What a bonus?! Thank you! 
My lovely prize!
Thank you Gore Bikeware

Andy's love for mud shows

Injured Stu

Die Van Niekerks

The Famous Darren & Amanda, our Tandem couple

The Johnson Brothers, Grant & Bryan

Zane, The Machine