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April 27, 2013

Joberg2c Day 2: Burning Matches

Affairs kicked off officially today. The racing snakes were chomping at the bit for some hard riding and mile munching as we fought our way and hauled our rear ends across the Free State for Stage 2 of Joberg2c 2013.

12 days ago at Ironman I never found the trap door that leads to that place I do enjoy; the pain cave.

Today, I found the trap door about 73km into the day, somewhere between a potato covered in aromat & a swig of ice-cold water. I felt the tiredness creep into the legs. That deep, amazing pain. The one that comes from digging a hole that is just too deep to get out. As we pedaled out of water point two, I knew it was time to embrace the suck.

Its one of those things that happens when pushing the limits. These are the necessary evils on the path to becoming a better human being. How we react to it is supposed to show character, poise and panache.

Right.

I’m not sure I showed any of those but I am pretty sure of the following things:

– I contributed even when I had nothing to give.
– I rode single track faster than I ever have chasing one of the best single track riders I have ever seen, trying to learn for the remaining seven days while digging a hole trying to follow him.
– I went numb, about 2km to go and just pedaled on pure joy for it being almost done.
– It. Was. Awesome.

Today was quite a bit shorter, but the pace in the first hour can only be described as á bloc as I tried to find some speed among the pack of guys and girls who seemed to think the race was over at 18km. It’s really like there was no plan except to hammer as hard as you can until you pop.

Except when there is a small patch of mud. Then everyone comes to a virtual standstill. It requires a sudden stop and a flat out acceleration immediately afterward to get back into the group. Not my forte, not my type of engine and not quite what I would have wanted, but I am here to try new things and throw myself in the deep end at times.

There was an explosion around the 18km marker as 100 teams seemed to suddenly run out of steam. Nic & I found a group that seemed to work and had a few guys contributing to the pace with us. We stuck with them until 44km when we joined a few more riders, but the new group presented my diesel engine with a specific problem.

Surges.

A couple of the teams in our group had a pairing of a much stronger rider and a rider hanging on. Every time there was a bump in the road, the stronger rider would get out the saddle, give 30 or so powerful strokes (perhaps in frustration) and their team mate would be hanging on for dear life. There would be “dead wheels” every time and it broke what was a great rhythm to the day. My diesel engine would rev only so high today so it meant slowly making my way back into the group every time.

This is what we call “burning matches” and it hurts my legs. A lot. I am built to go hours in a very specific zone, with consistency the focus. Eventually, my matchbox was empty & so were my legs. It was about this time that I found that trap door and when a slowly returned water bottle from the water point meant we missed the group heading out of the water point.

We exited 20sec down and never made the junction. We charged as hard as we could and my partner Nic was extremely patient as my power deserted me and I was only able to contribute for seconds at a time. I had to manage his power and get him to ride as smoothly as possible, guiding the diesel engine to the finish.

What a stud.

My contributions turned to riding over the top of each little rise with everything I had to get the speed going down the hill as quickly as possible.

The group was ahead of us. Slowly gaining time.

30 seconds.

40 seconds.

60 seconds.

Just as the pain became immense we hit the Red Bull enduro section and it was a welcome relief. Some of the best swooping single track I have ever ridden and the new Trek Superfly 100 I am on was incredible. It has 3 settings for the suspension – climb, trail & descend. It was the first section I had it fully open, front and back on “descend” and I was blown away by how the bike went.

I was railing corners and had a smile return to my dial for the first time in an hour. What followed was some of the best swooping single track I have ever ridden and I was urging Nic to ride faster and faster as we made our way to the finish, which we could now see.

As smashed through the wolf sanctuary and railed the last few corners home and then, just like that….

+++

Photos by the incredible Kelvin Trautman

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