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Having fun, writing about the stuff I like

Epic Training: Week 13

Oscar Foulkes December 5, 2016 Cape Epic No comments
I suspect I have reached The Age of Nostalgia. The few days spent in the Cederberg early this week were the first time I have returned since 1982, when as a 16-year-old boy we did some pretty serious hiking as part of a school trip. The reason for our visit (we were a group of parents) was to collect our sons at the culmination of an expanded version of the same thing. For a variety of reasons, many ‘emotion buttons’ were pressed.

I did two rides with one of the other fathers. The first day was a loop around the Sanddrif MTB trails, where the terrain makes for tough riding. The single track sections aren’t much more than glorified hiking trails, which gives a great sense of old school, pioneering mountain biking (even if it isn’t really).

On the second day we took a spin on district roads, in the direction of Wupperthal, although we didn’t have enough time to go all the way there. Lezandré’s training programme had two hours for the previous Saturday and Sunday, which I caught up (I’d lost Saturday to a skills session, and Sunday had been spent driving to the Cederberg).

During the week I had my second check-up since completing radiotherapy. There are no biopsies or blood tests; this is a visual examination by way of an endoscope shoved down my nose. All was fine on the cancer front, but it gave us the opportunity to chat about my breathing issues. It seems that, following surgery in December 2015 on both sides of my vocal chords, a web has grown across both the pointy end of the ‘V’ formed by the vocal chords.

Webbed feet are a great evolutionary advantage that swimming birds have over their terrestrial cousins, but webbed anything in an airway are bad for all the reasons that make it possible for ducks to paddle serenely across a pond. There is a surgical procedure that can remove the web, but it would involve me being out of action for two to three weeks, so it will have to wait until April 2017.

I rode the first two editions of Pennypinchers Origin of Trails. The first day of the first year was a brutal day of riding, in 40-degree heat, when an advertised 70km route actually turned out to be 80km. That first day formed the guts of two days of the 2016 race, which doesn’t mean that this year’s ride was a whole lot easier, but it does illustrate how hard year one was. Despite the organisers’ suggestions that riders dress up and generally be relaxed about time, I don’t think there’s any suggestion that Origin of Trails should be easy.

My confidence took a big knock after the first day. Whether it was the heat, or dehydration, or extra climbing, or insufficient nutrition – or all those factors working together – but my body basically crashed. Driving back to Cape Town, my legs, feet and hands were all cramping, which made driving an interesting experience. Thankfully, after rehydrating, cooling down and eating, I bounced back quite well. That was a big lesson in ‘body management’ on difficult days.

I approached day two much more conservatively, making sure that I ate and drank from the beginning. I also made an effort to keep my heart rate lower on the climbs. The end result wasn’t in racing snake territory, but I completed the day feeling quite strong.

Origin of Trails is a sensory overload of single track riding (much of it extremely technical), steep climbs, and magnificent scenery. Truly having fun riding the race requires a level of fitness that is well above average. I think I’ve let go of the ‘hate’ part of the relationship. With a bit more training I may yet grow to ‘love’ the race. At this point I’m just pleased that day two was more manageable than day one.

The race also gave Piet and I the opportunity of building our riding partnership. He’s a stronger rider, but thankfully patience is one of his virtues.





The apparent smile on my face is actually a repurposed grimace. My partner, on the other hand, was strong.

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