My Freedom Challenge journey
I’ve started the Freedom Challenge five times and have three finisher’s blankets to show for it, so by no means can I claim to be rookie at this. Once on a tandem and twice on a singlespeed, each attempt has challenged me and taught me something about myself. During those rides, I made mistakes, got lost in the dark, slept out in the cold and slowly learnt what not to do. But I also gained an insight into what was possible and the desire to come back and race the ‘perfect race’ – a clean, fast ride in record time, slowly grew inside me.
In 2012 I trained hard, did my homework and thought I was ready but after a good start, halfway through the first day things fell apart and by the second morning I was forced to withdraw… Looking back the signs were there – subtle clues which I had missed or ignored – I was over-trained and sick and didn’t have the reserves I needed to complete the race. I learnt the hard way that eight months of focussed preparation was no guarantee of success and it took me another four months to recover fully and get back to normal health.
The disappointment faded and was slowly replaced by a growing feeling of having ‘unfinished business’ with the Freedom Challenge – I knew I would have to go back. I was starting from zero again, my fitness levels were lacking and my confidence was low. But my approach would have to be different. With a weak immune system was still, the doctors advised me to start slowly and listen carefully to my body. I started reading up on training methods, nutrition and the best ways to optimise recovery, trying to train smart and looking for only small gains. Progress was slow, I felt weak on the bike and not confident to really push myself. It was frustrating but it taught me to be patient.
As things improved, so did my optimism and I started thinking about lining up again in 2013 for another attempt. A month before the race, I was riding strongly but my recovery after training was slow, so I decided to rather do the shorter Race to Rhodes and use it as a test. That ride was somewhat spoiled by stomach issues and slower than I’d hoped but as a test it was valuable because despite the issues, I recovered fairly quickly and this meant that I was on the right track.
I’ve learnt that health and fitness are not the same thing and you can’t have one without the other. I’m still learning about training, nutrition and recovery but this time from the experts – I’m fortunate to have a team around me who want to see me succeed. Now older and hopefully a bit wiser, I’m heading back in 2014 in search of that elusive ‘perfect race’.
RASA 2014 wrapped up with the race dinner on Saturday night – on a cold and wet winter’s evening, the Clan of Blanket Wearers was well represented by both existing and new members. The Stone Saddle was awarded to a very deserving Marnitz for his bike-packing adventures along the trail this year, more importantly, the […]
This year’s race was just plain hard! What started out as an attempt at the perfect race, quickly unraveled into a fight – a fight to keep moving forward and a fight against self-doubt. It went something like this: Day1: Pmb to Ntsikeni: Breakfast was late and we started late but the bunch were eager […]
Today was an interesting day in that it was curiously uneventful. The 2 lead riders passed the halfway mark some time today. But that is half way in terms of distance and not in time. In terms of time, we are now well past the halfway point, with the course now far faster than it […]