Updated: Mar 11, 2019
It’s a funny thing the mind. The mind that was telling me I was in pain and should abandon, was the same mind that an hour later was overriding the pain and tiredness and telling me I was having a great ride. It’s probably something to do with my inner chimp, but as I haven’t read that book, I’m not sure. (Devotees of Steve Peters can nod their heads at this point and rub their imaginary beards in a knowing way).
Having ridden the Cycle Tour before I knew what to expect from the course. I know where the hills are and how to pace my effort. Or so I thought. What I hadn’t bargained for was a fierce headwind on the entire outbound ride south. The first 10km of the race are uphill on a motorway culminating in a short 1km/4% climb up Edinburgh Drive, although this feels steeper because at this stage you are still weaving through traffic and it takes more effort. Once you crest this there is a long downhill and straight for another 10km. I was struggling with this from the off. I just couldn’t seem to grab a wheel and hold it, which was essential, not just to preserve energy, but because the wind was hard to work against. Once I left the motorway section and headed along the main road towards Simons Town I was really uncomfortable. The effort of staying lower to avoid the wind was really hurting my back. By the time I had reached the 45km mark,where you turn right to head inland, I was seriously considering abandoning. I had averaged just 15kph for the previous 10km and I wanted to get off.
The turn inland brought us to the second climb of the day called Smitswinkel. It’s only 1.5km but I got even slower. I pulled in at a feed station, drank three cups of coke and ate a banana. I even messaged home saying I didn’t think I would make it around. But the top of this hill is followed by a 5km gradual descent that was so easy I was sitting at 36kph average with barely any effort. Somewhere along that road my mind switched from negative to neutral. My back still ached but my legs were working. Somehow over the next 12km things got better. I ended up 8 minutes faster than before over this section and I am not really sure how. I felt ‘OK’ as we reached the bottom of Chapmans Peak Drive. Having ridden half of it yesterday, I felt like I would be fine here.
But I was better than OK here. As we started climbing I realised I was passing hundreds of people with no one passing me. Around me I saw people struggling in bottom gear and I still had three left that I never needed. Well there is nothing like the suffering of others to spur you on. I picked up my pace a little (eventually setting another PB) and near the top experienced my moment of the day. There are tons of tandems on this ride and on many of those were father/child combos in identical kit. As I passed one, the teenage daughter was playing Queen “Don’t Stop me Now” on her phone and singing along. I passed at the exact moment I could join in by singing “I’m travelling at the speed of light”. “Yes you bloody well are!” shouted the Dad. It spurred me on to drop a gear and kick on with a smile on my face.
From the top of ‘Chappies’ to Cape Town is just retracing the ride I had done for the past two days, so I was now supper confident of finishing strongly. Ten minutes later I was once again heading up Suikerbossie, my previous nemesis. Not today though. Today I flew up and even had time to move across the road the high-five the cheerleaders from Coke at the side of the road. (There was a photographer there also. I know. ‘What a dick’)
There was time for one last moment in the wind. Going downhill at around 55kph in a bunch, we came around a corner into a head wind and the entire group almost ground to halt as we were forced into bottom gear just to stay upright. But by this stage everyone was laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of it. 18km more to finish line breezed by.
I can’t lie, today was very tough. I think I was minutes away from quitting and yet Strava suggests that once out of the wind, I was faster than ever around this course. I am going to choose the take the positives from the ride. I won’t ignore the dark moments, but once again I will bank them and remember them the next time I need to recall how to get out of a mental hole. What I wish I knew how to do though, is switch through the mental gears. There wasn’t a conscious effort so it has to be subconscious. Somewhere out on the road my mind switched from ‘stop’ to ‘keep going’ to ‘Go Go Go!’. I want more of the latter. Perhaps I had better start reading about my inner chimp.
*I know that’s not how you spell ‘torture’ for the pedants among you. Both of you.