Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Week Of Rest (With Some Riding Thrown In For Good Measure. Of Course!)

After Cape Epic, I was back on my bike much sooner than I had planned. Tuesday morning, just two days after the race, gave me the opportunity to head out to a new riding area with Sarah and John. Tokai mountain bike park is part of a larger, multi-use park on the side of Table Mountain. By and large, the climbs were pretty mellow and there were some fun, technical singletrack descents to be had. We even rode with a family of baboons!

My legs struggled with any degree of effort. I was pretty smashed from the race. I must admit it kind of annoyed me that John seemed fresh as a daisy. One of the many frustrations of having a stronger teammate! In any case, it was a fun morning out. Having a bit of local knowledge to ride with is always a bonus and Sarah took us onto a semi-used trail (apparently generally a walking trail) that traversed the side of Table Mountain from underneath the "Elephants Eye" to further along the ridge along a cliff-side trail with stunning vistas.

The other thing about cliff-side trails, of course, is that they are narrow, exposed, and a little scary on your bike. We edged along the trail quite gingerly, dismounting for any obstacles that could potentially send us tumbling down the dropoff which snaked it's way along the trail less than a foot to the right of our wheel. It probably didn't help that I was having a bit of a low-confidence day on the bike, too. Sundays accident was still firmly etched in my memory and every still-aching injury was a constant reminder and made me a little more cautious than usual. It was an exhilarating ride, nonetheless, and absolutely worth the extra danger factor and the hike-a-bike to get up to the trail. Absolutely stunning.

I put my bike in for a full service at the end of the day, and got her back two days later and 3900 rand poorer. Who would have thought that after 781km and 16300m of climbing, I would require a new chain, new cassette, new brake pads, shock service and new seals along with all the other general lube work that comes with a full race service. It probably wasn't too bad value in reality. In the meantime, I had developed post-race illness. I had long forgotten about this. It had been quite some time since I had done such a huge race (about a year and a half). It's not unusual after a huge race like the Epic to get sick, but I was hoping I would avoid the inevitable. For days I struggled with a dizzy head, sore throat, runny nose and aching muscles which prevented me from doing much more than lying in bed reading. Especially with 24 hour solo world champs coming up, all I wanted to do was get on the bike and get my legs moving. It has been incredibly frustrating.

Easter weekend was spent with Sarah and Gav at Sarah's parents place in Scarborough, a sleepy little coastal town on the Western Cape. My brain was still mush from the race the week before and my little post-race flu still hanging around. No sooner was a wine placed in my hand than I was slunk in a chair on the verandah, soaking up a Western Cape sunset watching the embers on the charcoal braai die down long after our steak and potatoes had finished cooking. I hadn't been on my bike since Tuesday. That was a long time for me... I guess this is the sort of holiday "normal" people engage in. I didn't have any trouble getting to sleep that night. The wine and food had made me sleepy and I left the window ajar so my mind could be engulfed with the sound of the waves crashing on the beach as I slept.

Easter Saturday, as forecast, the weather was pretty average. My bike was in the car ready to go, but I wasn't keen on taking it out in the rain when I had just had everything replaced. My head was still cloudy, too, so I spent the day watching the sports channel with Gav and Sarah, snoozing, writing, reading and listening to music... How I survived a full day indoors, I'll never know, but I'm sure it did me a world of good. Heaven back in the bike saddle can't be too far away now. We did, however, get a small window of opportunity when the clouds parted for half an hour to go and check out Scarborough beach, a photogenic little slice of heaven a mere 50m from where we were staying where the waves rolled in over rocks with the jagged hillside in the background and the menacing clouds hanging over the ocean. Signs reminded us of the dangers of baboons and I scoured the hillsides with my eyes in search of some hiking trails I could maybe make use of to get out of the house.

We watched a lot of rugby, movies and sport on TV over the weekend... To be honest, it drove me a little stir crazy but was probably exactly the forced rest that I needed! Sundays weather didn't improve much, but we returned to Cape Town in time to sit in a little cafe and watch Paris-Roubaix. Seeing Tom Boonen annihalate the field in a breakaway 50km out from the finish was some pretty inspiring viewing... What a machine!

Easter Monday the weather fined up nicely for a trip to Aquila Private Game Reserve for a little safari. The bus ride, asides from being an hour late to pick me up (apparently this is pretty standard here) was quite pleasant. We headed out towards Robertson, where the Epic had begun, through the Huguenot Tunnel. My eyes strayed to the peaks that we would have been climbing just over a week ago... I had so much more respect for this terrain now... This time, I think my legs were grateful for the bus ride instead, and I enjoyed the scenery without the pressure of the race upon me, which was very relaxing.

It never ceases to amaze me how embarrassing tourists can be. I thought I was bad with my camera and happy-snapping, but I seriously had nothing over some of these clowns. I suppose ignorance is bliss, but I believe you only have the right to call it bliss if you can recognise in the first place that you are a little ignorant to what is going on... I found it highly amusing how many of these tourists were talking about how an area "looked like" something else... "Oh, this looks like Scotland, or this looks like Arizona"... I was so tempted to turn around and say, "actually, it looks like South Africa"... For some reason, I decided to humour them, but it was a good reminder of why I like to travel off the beaten track and ride my bike everywhere! When we arrived at Aquila, it was cold... Bitterly cold, actually. I must admit even I was surprised. I was glad I took my jacket!

The reserve was quite spectacular. It had this harsh, barren beauty that was quite striking. The line on the horizon was sharp and unblurred by trees or buildings. It was also perfect for spotting animals, and we were lucky to have two playful elephants lumber in front of us nearly as soon as we entered the reserve in our troupie. We also spotted hippos, rhinos, springboks, ostriches and got up close to some zebras (so cool!). The lions, cheetahs and leopards were in their own fenced off areas, but still in a fairly open environment. It was really cool to see them in their natural habitat, but I must admit, it still really felt like they were in captivity. I guess that's the benefit of going to the larger reserves up north where they have much more space and the animals are actually free-roaming in the area. Because Cape Town generally doesn't get these animals here, they are all imported into the park and kept in the reserve. Still, a very cool experience, and I would have felt I had missed out on a "must do" if I hadn't gone.

The trip home in the warm, sunny bus sent me to sleep, along with the wine that we tasted at the wine farm on the way home (i still find it amusing that they call them "wine farms" and not wineries). When I got back to Cape Town, I went out for a little spin on the Ninja up on Table Mountain just as dusk was setting in. It was a lovely evening... One that really needed to be shared with a bicycle. It was great to be atop my steed again, and the legs are feeling quite good after a week of rest. Once I get to Europe next week, I will take them out for a bit of an "opener" to see how they are feeling at pace. Looking forward to that!

No comments:

Post a Comment