Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Following the light - The Lighthouse to Lighthouse Challenge 2013

So the big day has arrived....

The so called preparation that I had done for the lighthouse to lighthouse challenge was going to be put to the test now, and wow was it put to the test.

The Silver Weapon!
CL's Weapon of choice

Myself and CL, left on the Friday, around 3, thinking we would have e ought time to get a bite to eat, register and setup for the night, well typical traffic had a different plan for us, and there we sat. This is of course did not help the mental game of what was ahead of us as we had no idea what we were in for. Doing different research looking another people's stories of the challenge; some saying it is a challenge but good fun and moderately easy, while others saying it is pure hell....what did we know...nothing, which I must say is actually good thing looking back because one become more cautious before dropping the hammer and deciding to go out and smash it, but the challenge thinks differently.

Eventually arriving at Gansbaai, later than we intended, we registered and go going on setting u for the next day. Making sure our bikes were good, we had our 'special race fuel' snacks ready and double checking everything. This sounds like we were prepared however, doing our first multi-stage race we were kinda of winging it, but it also doesn't hurt having a guy like CL who is the guru when it come to endurance food...thank goodness!

This better be the right stuff CL?
Rise and shine! After a decent sleep we woke to hustle bustle of other riders getting ready, talking about what to expect, how long is it etc. the nerves starting to set in now, as I started to see the more experienced riders talking about pacing and everyone saying please don't let the wind come up, which at this stage it was as calm as a sleeping newborn (this of course was to change). On a side note, I saw a guy take out some baby bum cream, and my original thought was, shame newbie on his bike, who needs that, later on we will see why that is one thing I will never forget again on a multi stage.

CL and myself were now ready, we were pumped up, nerves kicking in, excitement all around, it was overall a real good energy and people were feeling really optimistic especially as the wind had not picked up. Could it be, the dream day that everyone wanted, the day where wind I'd not play a factor...HA No! It's the coast people, of course there is going to be wind.

Ready as we will ever be!

The early bird catches the worm!

Bang, gun goes off and all you hear is "woohoo, come on guys" and we all set off for a long day in the saddle, 91Km long to be exact. In beginning we started off nicely with everyone, all of us bunched together, the experienced and top riders already making the break for it and separating themselves from the field. CL and myself were going along nicely, riding side by side or slip streaming and overall having a good ride, then came the uphill, which was not too bad, but of course then what made it bad was our friend the wind....he was not a friend he was just a plain dick, pardon my wording but you would use a lot worse if you met him on the day, and coming head on, there was nothing nice about it. But we dealt with it, and slip streaming each other made a world of difference. My advice if you are going to do this your first time, have a rider who you can stay with...

 As we hit the half way mark, CL and i stopped off at the water point for a stretch, some special fuel and catching up, we looked back and had seen we had done about 50km about in a good 3:30 maybe a little more, which was awesome as we thought ok, another 30km and we would be done, again assuming this was the big mistake once again! As we set off for the "last leg" of day 1, we were feeling good and strong, and most off all in good spirits, but and it's a big but, the whole time thinking where is this beach and sand everyone talks about? Where?....WHERE? Oh hello there you are! Enter the nature reserve everyone had talked about in past reviews, also known as the soft sand. As we entered the nature reserve, we just looked ahead and thought, how do we do this, every pedal stroke sapping more energy out of our legs than the previous one, eventually we hear behind us, go off the trail to the right, and all of a sudden, an overgrown, but single trail was seen, and no more soft sand...for now. To give you an idea it tools us about an hour to do 10km maybe even more. Eventually leaving the reserve and thinking we left the soft sand behind, and CL making the statement "oh well at least it can't get worse" - wrong statement CL, as we're about to find out, it was about to.

Half Way!

The last section of day 1, was in a word just plain "torture". Not so much that it was because we were tired and that we wanted to finish, but it was that every pedal stroke on the beach became harder and harder, and drained more and more energy. The last 3 Km took forever as we were straight into the wind and the end just never seemed to arrive, actually the damn lighthouse never seem to arrive, but finally it did, and just like that we were done, Day 1 over. 91 Km down....time for a bit of R&R and mental preperation for the next day!

Rest Time!

Day 2 of the Lighthouse Challenge...

And here we go!
After an OK nights sleep, besides the fact that there was a gale force wind blowing throughout the night, which was causing out tent to cave in; we woke up and started to prepare for another long day. A 120 Km long day to be precise. As CL and I were getting ready, the whole time we were thinking, please let the wind actually stay with us and give us help today unlike the previous day. I know this sounds strange, who actually asks for wind right? well that day if the wind was to stay in the same direction as the day before, it was going to be a massive help.

As we lined up at the start, all you heard were the groans from what was to come, and why groans, well, it turns out on the second day, you start of course where you finished and that meant, starting in the super quick sand as well as the "fantastic" (place for a sarcasm button right here) nature reserve. The positive side was that it would be over and done with and then off to the more flat route.

As the gun, went off, we all started off, knowing in a way what was waiting for us. CL and myself started together and were together for about 3 Km until he put the hammer down and off he went. Myself on the other hand was not loving the start, and all I can say is from now on, any, I mean any, multi-stage race, it will require Vaseline or anti-chaff, and that's that.

Once past the reserve things started to ease up a bit and I started to get into a good rhythm  however, where was our friend the wind, the guy who was suppose to be by our back the whole race? Well the bastard had decided to up and leave that day, and so without any wind, the day was calm, sounds great right, not so much, as my legs were still recovering from the previous day. But I trucked on, and on, and as the Km's started to drop and drop, you started to get a feeling like, wow I am actually doing this, and all of a sudden a wave of enjoyment passes over and you find yourself looking over some of the most beautiful views in our country has to offer. I must admit that wave flowed over quite quickly, as we approached the big hill, and by this I mean that over every little crest, the hill kept on going up and up, oh and guess who decided to come back right then and there, our friend Mr. Wind, he was not there long but he made sure he was going to show his face during that time.

After passing the half way mark and having the big hill behind us (it was not a big hill in all fairness but after 50 Km or so, any hill becomes big and tough) We rode through the little town of Elam and you started to realize that the finish was not that far away, and say to yourself, he I can do this. And that is exactly what we did. We put the hammer down, as the pro's say, and went for it. Struggling here and there, and thankfully I partnered up with a guy who was around my strength and we ended up doing every last Km together, and this was a massive help, as from a motivational factor, it is probably the one thing that helps you the most and keeps your mind off the race the whole time. I can clearly see why multi-stage races are done in pairs.

As we got down to the last 5 Km, we could see the Lighthouse, where we started the day before and thought, this is it, the last bit, finally the agony, the pain, the chaff! was all about to end. Finally we crossed the line, and after a long two days, I could say that I completed the Lighthouse 2 Light house challenge. This is a tough race, no doubt, but I can promise you that the reward of completing it, is fantastic and there is something, deep down inside that says "See you next year!"

The End...finally!

As always, play in the dirt and Stay Dirty!

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