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Epic 2018: Dreams & Plans

Oscar Foulkes January 29, 2018 Cape Epic No comments
“A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.”

Completing the Absa Cape Epic is the living embodiment of this quotation by Harvey Mackay. I should add that it’s a highly manageable goal. While preparation is less time-consuming than most people would think (for riders in the middle of the field, few weeks need to exceed 10 to 12 hours of training), it’s critical that the hours are applied according to a plan. “There is magic in process” was my motto for Epic 2017 training, because following a process delivers results (as long as the process has both a plan and a deadline).

My aim with these weekly training reports has been to share the journey, because the “eight days of courage” that comprise the event are just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. And, while it’s less of a factor this year than my preparation for 2017, I’ve had to overcome some substantial physiological impediments in achieving the dream.

Long rides – such as those I did in the base training during my holidays – are certainly important. However, the keys to a training programme that is going to take just 10 or 12 hours per week are the high quality interval sessions. Last year, I did almost all of them on a bike, but this year the majority have been on Wattbike. The beauty of the Wattbike is that the entire session is 100% measurable, and there’s nothing like measurability to turn plans to reality.

The Wattbike, once again, made a starring appearance in the week’s training, with six by six-minute hill repeats on Tuesday, followed by Erica’s Epic Intervals on Thursday. I’m sworn to secrecy as to the composition of these intervals, but both Wattbike sessions did a pretty good job of reducing me to something close to jelly.

Having so emphatically made a point about sticking to training plans, I’m about to contradict myself, by telling you how I deviated from the plan this weekend. I couldn’t ride on Saturday, because of being involved in supporting the management of Sun Met hospitality in the grandstand. And, having been on my feet all day on Saturday (with many flights of stairs climbed), my legs weren’t exactly in pristine condition when I rode on Sunday.

I had made an arrangement to show some of the Val de Vie riders the Prologue route. While it passes very close to my house, we met at the Rhodes Memorial entrance in order to attack it from the correct end. This year, Cape Epic asked riders to submit an expected completion time for the Prologue, which I’m assuming is going to lead to some kind of seeding. For those still in doubt of a time (although the deadline for submission may have passed), I can tell you that we took about 90 minutes, riding quite slowly in parts, and with several minutes of stoppage.

Bear in mind that an extra five or ten minutes spent on Prologue makes little difference to the overall finish position of those of us who will make up the bulk of the field. However, the residual effect of riding in the red to make up five minutes during Prologue can have a disproportionate negative effect on the stages that follow.

The Prologue route is pretty straightforward, with the exception of the Plum Pudding singletrack that is looking particularly sketchy at the moment. There are two short, steep climbs on the City Bowl side that are slightly lung busting, and potentially problematic if someone stops just ahead of you.

We then rode the big Southern Suburbs loop to Tokai. The ride didn’t start until 8.00, we’d ridden slower than usual, and people had commitments to get to, so we ended at 57km when we got back to our vehicles.

The result was that I didn’t do all I was required to last week, but I’m guessing (hoping!) that Erica was expecting a little leeway when she set up the programme. For example, I could have had a few days off ill (which I haven’t).

Returning to dreams. The probability of breeding or owning a top racehorse can be improved, but it remains a pursuit in which uncertainty needs to feature as a key component of the planning. Horse racing is a sport that runs on dreams, and my personal one has centred on Sergeant Hardy, particularly because his story bears relationship to mine (purely the breathing impairment, not athletic ability, I should stress).

Given the way that the Sergeant Hardy story has formed so much a part of my Epic journey, I need to share with you the wonderful news that on Saturday he beat South Africa’s best sprinters in the Grade I Cape Flying Championship.

Dreams are fine for horses, but getting to the finish line of Cape Epic takes real work. Thanks to Erica’s training programme, my body is feeling in great shape. With the Prologue deadline looming just seven weeks away, I need to keep it that way!

Sergeant Hardy returns to the winner's enclosure after the Cape Flying Championship

Sergeant Hardy returns to the winner’s enclosure after the Cape Flying Championship (pic: Donna Bernhardi)

Daniel Saaiman, the resident photographer for Val de Vie, put together these snippets from our ride on Sunday.

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