For some months now, the primary current in my life has been the Desert Dash. Now that the 16th of December is a few days away, the current has become a torrent, all the mental and physical preparation is coming to a head.
Last year I was the back-up for the Desert Vixens, an experience which convinced me to do it myself. The thought of doing it on my singlespeed GT Peace 9r was a bit daunting, so that in turn set in motion the process which became the "The GoldenBike". That's a Niner S.I.R. with a carefully thought out, tight-budget build and a setup which is an exact replica of the Peace. (Mary Bars, Ergon grips, Murray Orthoped sadlle, Thudbuster seatpost, tubeless).
Then of course came the main bit, getting properly fit so that the Dash would stand a fair chance of being an enjoyable event rather than a bad memory. Is it wrong to go into an intensive interval training programme in order to avoid shitting off in the race? Maybe, but it worked for me. Sixteen weeks ago I got hold of Maryke Verster (more on this later) to work out a training programme for me. I supplied her with the necessary info and she provided the interval training programme, six days a week, on average 7-9 hours per week.....
In the first four weeks I lost 4kg without even noticing it (not that weight-loss was a priority, just a nice to have, but that in itself is a story, I guess)
Maryke had me sussed, the programme was just hard enough to make me work, but not so hard that I felt like ducking out. So it started, day in and day out, hour long interval sessions with longer weekend rides. Sometimes freezing cold, often windy, rainy (when in Tokai) but always enjoyable, the rides just seemed to get better and better.
It wasn't long before I began to notice a difference, feeling better, sleeping better, even eating better. No more desire to eat junk or to gorge after a hard ride. I attribute this to eating properly before rides and exercising within managed ranges.
There have been some memorable rides (into the howling south wind, icy cold winter mornings, and more recently heat). Certainly one that sticks out is the 118km night ride that Sandra, Jan and I did about a month ago. With some careful planning based on http://www.yr.no weather forecasts, we hammered a fast ride in a time that surprised us. (That was also the night I learned, not for the first time, the effects of badly designed padding in cycling shorts). Maybe someone will one day explain why (in this case, Cape Storm) put the crease in the padding directly under one's seat bones. That night I heard the distant voice of Graeme Murray, saying not so politely that I should be riding in un-padded shorts. So I have gone back down the unpadded shorts route again.
Now if only I could get the same sorted out for my feet. I have wide feet, like many, but cycling shoes generally seem to made for long skinny European feet. Not Nike, not Shimano, not Olympic. Once there was a Sidi that worked OK. This is all leading me to a more dialled setup which may just include platform pedals and comfortable trail shoes. (And NO, I do not wish to engage in the "clips are better debate", but thanks for offering anyway ;) At my elevated level of cycling, clips have one huge advantage...they keep me attached to the bike......and help me feel more secure. I guess that's a bit like over-tightening ski-bindings and doesn't help one develop technique.The Peace already has platforms, and I must admit I really like that feel. This option will be investigated after the Dash.
Back to the Dash, we are now into the last few days of the taper phase of our training, in fact only two gentle rides left. Now it's into the final preparation and detail planning (food, drinks, and mechanical ). I have had to deal with a fair whack of pre-race "just in case" replacements and also some unacceptable ones.
New chains and cassettes and in my case a new headset. (FSA= Full Speed Ahead into the recycling bin). Sandra's fork (which caused drama by packing up just before last year's Dash, did so again this year)
Many thanks to Damien at Cycle Wholesale for the prompt, professional response and the loan of a Fox fork.
Support your lbs and they'll return the favour.
The race works like this:
Sandra and I start in Windhoek in an expected 29 degrees Celsius and a headwind of 20kmh up the Kupferberg hill to an altitude of 2000m. (35km). Thanks http://www.yr.no/place/Namibia/Khomas/Windhoek~3352136/ Maybe we didn't need to know that!
At the end of this stage, Sandra gets into the support vehicle and I ride on to the Kuiseb bridge (70km). When I get to the Kuiseb bridge, Sandra rides the next stage to Khomas Safaris (70km) while I get moved to the end of the stage.
From Khomas, I ride on to Bloedkopje (70km) where Sandra takes over for the stage to the Old Power Station (70km). Here I join her and we ride together into Swakopmund. To the finish.(35km)
That all needs to be done in under 24hours to qualify as a finish.
Reading between the lines you can see there's lots that can happen, so we are getting ourselves well organised. The idea is to enjoy the ride, not to struggle as a result of bad planning.
Hence the meticulous attention to mechanical detail, no chances, no shortcuts. Not even any tiny irritating squeaks on the bike. Lights, back-up lights, reflectors, spares, ........
Meals cooked, packed and ready to be eaten at the end of our stages. Bicycle juices (Hammer Perpetuem and USN Recover Max) in bottles, just add water.
Stuff to wash yourself with.
Warm clothes(it can get cold in the desert in thesmall hours of the morning!)
This afternoon is the second last pre-Dash ride, a gentle taper ride with full kit. Batteries charged, ready to roll.
The next post could just be interesting.