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April 8, 2010

The Official Cape Epic Report: Days 7-8 & Epilogue

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Day 7:

It goes without saying that the day had gloom written all over it, from the get go. We woke up to a cold and threatening-to-be-raining Elgin. The sun was threatening but we heard it was 4 degrees up on the mountain with some rain and yes, loads of wind.

Amazeballs.

I get cold in general, so today I donned warm gear as I knew the pack would hammer it out, killing themselves within 30min and we would again be stronger than the day before.

Indeed, it all began to plan. Riding tempo up the first climbs we were again ahead of schedule, so we had a bit of time to take it a bit easier. The legs felt great after about 15min. After the first 5km which are all virtually uphill we descended into the valley.

Coming around a winding corner on some loose gravel I felt the tell-tale signs of my back end sliding out. I am not the absolute best descending machine so this is normal, I corrected myself (which I was becoming increasingly good at), held the line and was about to unclip my left foot for a bit of extra turn when the corner of my handlebar, firmly attached to the bar-end, managed to tangle itself in a branch, which in turn, was attached to a rather large bush.

Not a problem going 15km/h.

By all estimations we were going about 40-50km/h at that point. I was ahead of Brett but I remember being able to look him in the eye before making contact with Mother Nature. This means a full 180 degree flick of me and the bike. Brett was quick to comment a little later that it was quite an impressive maneuver. Avoidable, but impressive.

Crashes are quick and unceremonious and this was no different. Tuck, hold, and hurt.

I was sore, all over, and not quite sure which hurt most until the throb started in my hand. Looked at the right glove to see it had a big gash in the palm where the throb was emanating from. Not good. Remove the glove. Blood is flowing, profusely, dread crept in.

This was going to be a long day.

The only words that I could come up with were “Duct Tape”. I had a 4cm gash deeper than I could see on the spot where I rest my hands on the bike. The skin around it was kaput. My heart rate monitor was missing, my head hurt and my right bum cheek was beginning to hurt too.

Brett taped me up (thanks bra!), helped ease the glove back on and we got under way again, slowly. I was pretty shell shocked and at first it was slow going. We got to a medic about 10km later and he removed the tape and got some bandage on me, shortly after washing the wound out with some alcohol. In my mind, I punched him so hard I decapitated him, it hurt so much.

Moving on. Stitches were going to be needed for sure, so best to suck it up, get some painkillers in, and get to the finish quick as possible.

Some of the crazy obstacles we encountered on the day, after hitting water point 1 in 180th men’s team (prob about 230th overall team) were:

1. Freakish headwinds.
2. A wall of sand about 500m long. I. Kid. You. Not.
3. Climbs so steep I had to get off and walk.
4. My chain lodged itself in between the wheel spokes and the back of the cassette.

Slogged it out I tell you. Brett was machine on the day. Kept me motivated all day. The myprodols may have helped a little as well, but just enough to take the edge off. We pushed and pushed and pushed until my body gave in with about 8km to go and I had to coast in. We had no idea we had ridden ourselves back into 65th men’s team. Had we known, I am sure I could have found one last gear, but I was emotionally done by 92km.

The sight of my dad surprising me in the medical tent will long live down as a great moment. Family are so important and having them there on the day solidified my loss and gave me a bit of extra strength for the day. We even broke out the wine and had some great laughs in the afternoon.

By the time the anesthetic wore off the infection kicked in. It hurt far more than the crash. I was starting to get cold sweats by the time I went to bed and hoped it would work itself out by morning, going through 4 wet t-shirts through the night. I was almost sure it would be gone by morning.

Almost.

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Day 8

It was not to be. I woke up with a fire in my throat and in a cold sweat at 6am. Every bone in my body was sore, like I had flu. I knew there was trouble as we had 75km to pedal over a huge, rocky mountain.

My hand throbbed as I ate my breakfast and I was contemplating how I was going to hold the handlebars as I was barely able to hold my cup in my hand.

Getting on the bike and pedaling to the start has to be one of the hardest things I have ever done. I was cold and hot, sore and had no power in the legs. Crisis. The end was supposed to be a victorious day.

To say that we struggled on the day is an understatement. You want to race the last day, blazing glory, all guns firing in a splendor of hail Mary’s, French Bulldogs raining from the sky and 30 Seconds to Mars – Kings & Queens raging on a volume so high even Mick Jagger would ask for it to be turned down.

I could however, only soft pedal. My hand, well that felt like someone was stabbing me in it every time I rode over a rock and the downhills were total murder. I walked/crawled/swore my way up the big climb in the mass of riders, a space we were totally unused to. It took forever. I felt useless. I was beaten down.

On the downhill I had to stop halfway down to recoup, my pain was unmanageable by that point and I was going to slow I was in danger of falling off all the time. I had a choice to make as I could see Brett was frustrated as well. He had been so good all day. Patient. Quiet. Calm.

I had to either walk the hill, or ride and become one with the pain. I chose the latter. Screaming and yes, crying my way down the hill all in what must have been a huge cause of concern for those around me, I went as fast as I could, hanging on for dear life itself, balling my eyes out screaming the pain out for the remainder of the downhill.

Thankfully, that was it in terms of the rocky stuff. I was spent.

The release seemed to perk me up somehow once we got through the aid station and we started picking off some guys on the smoother road. My legs were still nowhere, and wouldn’t come back all day.

The walk down Gamtoos Pass was amazing, quiet, finding the peace that we were almost home. The neutral zone was frustrating as we got stuck in a group. The last 7km was in fact, 4km and in the end, we sat up and let the group go. We wanted to finish alone in the shoot. It has been a huge adventure and the realization that it was about to be over in less than a minute sucked, for just a second, before the crowds cheered us over the finish line.

Family, friends, they were all there. The way they look at you is incredible. Yes, we sucked on the day, but somehow, they still saw us as heroes. We were 44th team overall across the 8 days. We worked our way back from 98th including 3 hours lost over the week.

We were tired, but happy. Very happy.

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Epilogue

To paragraph the experience is just never going to cut it I am afraid. First off, as is tradition, I need to thank everyone who made the journey possible.

Fairbairn Private Bank, Morewood, Sludge, Sport-X, Whasp, Biosport, Puma, Jack Black Beer, Rok Media, Rockets, Suunto, Legacy Cycles, ATC Multisport. You make us look great and we hope to do our best for you in return.

To Brett, my partner, I need to give out a personal 1min bear hug. The guy is amazing. I have known him for years but our week together was without a doubt, the best we had ever done. Generally we are trying to kill each other out on race courses (the occasional tequila competition may also have happened) but for this entire week, we were a team. We remained calm in all situations and we sucked the best out of each other when the going got tough. Mad love.

To the Epic, thank you for taking us over amazing landscapes and providing unique challenges each day. We salute you. It really is the greatest adventure.

The finish line was never enough and never will be. Already, we have Ironman in 2 ½ weeks time to keep our minds busy. After that I know I am intending to learn to surf ski and keep growing my MTB skill set.

This part of my journey was amazing, so amazing I had to split it into 4 posts. I urge you to find an adventure of any magnitude that involves physically challenging yourself. I am not saying go and do the Epic. We come from years of physical challenges. Build up. Start small. But make sure each one is a challenge.

Your life will never be the same.

See the light…

6 Comments on “The Official Cape Epic Report: Days 7-8 & Epilogue

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Marc Perel, Raoul de Jongh. Raoul de Jongh said: New Post: : The Official Cape Epic Report: Days 7-8 & Epilogue http://bit.ly/bpd4GJ […]

Reply
RichSch
April 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Top form, dude – great writing. Have to confess I laughed at the Day 7 descriptions!

Reply
Doc G
April 8, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Good stuff mate. Very entertaining writing.

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brett
April 8, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Thanks bra – thanks for putting our experience down in words, I would never have the patience or ability and it makes me stoked that you have allowed others to share in our adventure.
If ever there is a need for a tough guy, a Titan, a man amongst men, look no further FRETTEN is here.
Thanks for gutting it out, thanks for teaching me the way of the sneaking ninja, i know my epic would have been way harder and I probably would have ended up finished under a bush had you not kept me calm and stuck to the plan.
Once more into the breech, or something equally heroic and nostalgic…..respect

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Mom
April 9, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Raoul & Brett, your journey has been one that turns boys into men & men into heros for all those that are part of your lives. You have created a bond that will forever be strong & keep you ‘a team’ for all time. Thanks for allowing us to be part of the journey.

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Jezza
April 14, 2010 at 11:23 am

Aaaagh what an awsome experience you journeyed on! Thanks for putting these mind bending experiences into such a well written format. I too did the Epic and having come from a very low base, the Epic was a MASSIVE step up for me. Well done and all the very best for Iron Man. Wow thats almost uncomprehendable that you are about to do that! Good luck!

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