GUEST BLOGGER: Barry Wasserman
Facing the alarm
A Sunday without sun.
At 3:30am on Sunday 22 February a very weary face with red eyes greeted me in the bathroom mirror. The morning breath was cursing the loudmouth neighbours. They were noisy.
Their leader was the one with the voice of an opera dragon with a deep barking laugh. One of those barks were the dog’s front legs come off the ground to squeeze out every last decibel from the dog’s ribcage. I had not slept well.
At least we were on our way to Sabie, away from the city (I believe city should be spelled with “sh”). We were on our way to do the Ashburton Investments MTN National MBT series’ half marathon. The thought of 45km in the picturesque Drakensberg Mountains surrounding Sabie put the twinkle back in my red eyes.
My previous experience with Sabie was the 40km York Timber around six months ago. I came in second…..last. This time I was ready.
I swapped my 26” Bianchi for the 29” Frankenbike, lost 5kgs and gained some fitness and grit. I was tired but ready.
My good friend and colleague, T-man the racing snake would be my riding partner for the day. My other-other brother, Stanley Roos, opted for the 17km race (his first of many MTB experiences to come).
T-man ran a promotional 800m the previous day (1minute 50,8 seconds – that snail is FAST!) at a local track and field event and pushed his system into a shock. This didn’t stop him though. His MTB entry landed him in a batch that would start 5 minutes after mine. He is super fit and would catch me in no time.
Finding the venue in Sabie was easy as pie. We just followed the cheap cars with expensive bikes stuck on the back. The weather was perfect for racing; cool, cloudy and slightly damp. At the venue we received our race numbers and goody bags. This time the prized gift was an Ashburton Investments towel in a neat carry bag. The new chipped racing number from SA Seeding would be mine to keep for further events. You may now call me 72224.
Getting Race ready
We got our bikes ready and decided that the first 5km would serve as warm-up (very professional). We counted our bombs and lined up in the batching cages. Here I discovered one of my new friends, JP, also lining up in my batch (Batch F).
The announcer called Batch F up and we made our way to the starting line. The remaining seconds flew by and we were off. I almost kissed the barrier in the crowd but managed to stay on Frankenbike long enough to almost be knocked off again by a leaning USN flag.
The first 5km was relatively flat and fast. It all came to a sudden end though when we started an Eveready-bunny type climb close to Lone Creek Falls. The jeep track was crowded with heavy breathing MTB’ers in sissy gears. I climbed hard, knowing that I’m a downhill wimp. I needed to make up time climbing as hard as I can.
The first climb gave way to a gentle slope and the first feed zone at the Maritsbos overnight hut for hikers. Here I had to sort out my camelbak. It refused to give me water up to that point because of a pinched pipe.
The gentle downhill continued for a while and gave way to another monster of a climb. It was during this climb, whilst I was doing my best to make up for my slow descents that a very chirpy T-man caught up with me (around the 20km mark). We completed the climb and had a quick stop on the crest of a giant hill amidst the clouds.
Here we started the downhill section of the course and after a few km’s of very fast jeep track we dropped into spectacular single track. The ground was wet and slippery and it didn’t take long for my arms to start complaining. Here we passed lots of riders with tyre troubles and we struggled to pass a group that descended slightly slower than us.
I lost sight of T-man and continued my descent. Some riders passed me with astonishing speed and very little respect for gravity, friction and all the laws of physics. They must be part of a good medical scheme.
The downhill section ended and we transitioned into a flat section called the Bridal Veil single track. The course markers indicated that we entered the final 5km of the race. I was about to give T-man up and make a new friend ( I would call him U-man) when I saw a very ugly girl sitting next to her bike. It turned out to be T-man. He stopped because of an alleged cramp.
We completed the beautiful last section together, pedalling as hard as we could. The music and voices of the admiring masses became audible and soon enough we crossed a little bridge and entered the final stretch and crossed the finish line.
The commentator noticed T-mans’ biceps and had a few words to say about his sleeveless jersey. A short while later JP crossed the line with muddy cleats and a dusty smile.
Advendurance sure knows how to organize an event. They’ve got me hooked. Stanley caught the bug too. He already booked accommodation in Clarens for the next event in April and will be getting his own bike (He borrowed our Dad’s Silverback to see if he would like to do MTB – He loved it).
What will Advendurance dish up in Clarence? I can’t wait to see.