There are a few races in the programme that are part of preparation for Epic, the first of which is Attakwas, on 21 January. When the entries were opened, in September, they sold out within hours. With less than a week to go to the race, there are now entries available on almost every forum or group populated by mountain bikers.
As long as there is residual base fitness, one can go straight from lazy holiday, complete with excessive eating and drinking, to a 65km race with 1400m of climbing without too much pain. Attakwas is 120km and 2900m of climbing, effectively double a stage of Wines2Whales or any one of the popular races, which explains why riders are having second thoughts.
My focus has been on Epic, but suddenly Attakwas is looming as ominously as Mordor. I’m not suggesting that the Cango Caves have suddenly become home to legions of Orcs, but it’s a challenging day of riding. And, despite all the training I’ve done, somewhat beyond my comfort zone.
This week’s training has been aimed largely at recovery. On Tuesday, I did a spin of just over an hour that had a 10-minute portion in zone three. Thursday’s ride comprised a warm-up, followed by four three-minute climbs in a big gear, and then cool-down. I bumped into some friends just after starting, with the result that my supposed warm-up was ridden at much higher intensity than intended. I did my hill repeats alone, but I really ‘put my back into’ them, if the expression can be applied to an activity that involves the legs. I could feel it in my muscles the next day, which was satisfying.
Friday was a rest day, and then Saturday was an easy 90 minutes. Table Mountain has many kilometres of trails, so it was a big coincidence for me to bump into Piet shortly after I started. He was heading home after hurting his hand in a fall. It thankfully seems to just be soft tissue damage, so he shouldn’t lose more than a few days’ training, but anything more severe in the final months approaching Epic could be race-ending.
The approach to Mordor needs to be handled with caution.