Carry Forth Thy Whip With Pride

In many races there is an Ultra or a Marathon and then a “Half” or a “Lite”. Somehow the latter signalling something  easier and for beginners. On the Freedom Trail there is RASA and then Race to Rhodes (R2R) or Race to Cradock (R2C) and given the above context one can be forgiven for thinking R2R/R2C are easier and for beginners, but one cannot be more wrong.

The final day of R2R represents a case in point. After 5 days on the trail one wakes up on the final morning in a warm blanket covered bed of a local hut that has been vacated for your privilege. It is made so much more special by the striking balance between poverty and friendliness of the people of the trail one had experienced along the trail. Vuvu represents the final frontier of this experience as from here on the trail flows into a completely different and remote farming landscape. Few realize that the pre-dawn ride down to the start of the legendary Lehanas Pass will present a last glimpse of these rural villages which are so typical of the first section of the trail.

Lehanas Pass is the biggest portage along the route and with an elevation difference of almost 1000m over 3.5km it is the one that can explained most understandably to outsiders. It is almost incomprehensible to fathom carrying your bicycle on your shoulders up this pass and the task is made so much more real by being able to see pretty much the whole pass all the way to the top from the moment one starts at the river at the bottom. The blue container way up high in the sky patiently awaits its next visitors as it slowly but surely becomes bigger in size as one makes the ascent step by step. There are few experiences as rewarding as reaching the top of the pass and taking a few minutes to look back in awe down the pass and the breathtaking vista it presents. Strangely enough, celebrations as deserved as they are, are short lived and one is overcome with an incredible sense of humility and respect for the journey that one has completed over the past few days. For many this reflection represents a realization that one has the physical and emotional ability to overcome any challenge no matter how big. You just know that from this moment your life will never be the same again, you have been changed forever.

There is however still work to be done before one can celebrate in Rhodes and the ride past Tena Head and down Naudes Nek is perhaps a final reminder that the trail will not give any inch for free, every meter has to be earned. The final ride into Rhodes to the waiting smiles and hugs from the Race Office and fellow riders plays out almost as an anti-climax, the significance of the achievement of the past 6 days, far outweighing the social celebrations. The previous 6 days touch and impact us in ways we could never have anticipated, physically and emotionally, not even in our wildest dreams. We learn about ourselves and experience our deepest highs and lows along the journey.

The final day from Vuvu to Rhodes is wonderfully representative of the Freedom Trail experience and the Herdsman Whip represents so many special things that can only be understood if you were there yourself. Saying congratulations is a much appreciated social gesture but seeing that Whip on your wall brings back deep emotions and special memories that are only understood by those that have completed the journey.

Welcome to the tribe.

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I have Freedom Trail FOMO

#Freedom Trail (A trail where you make ever lasting friends and get to know yourself intimately)

#FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

In the beginning of 2015 it was not my specific intention to be at Race 2 Rhodes on the Freedom Trail in June. Then in March 2015 I had such an amazing Race to Cradock experience that I could not resist entering Race 2 Rhodes again. I only discovered over the past 12 months or so an ability to be able to ride my bicycle for long hours on end and somehow still find enjoyment in that, rather bizarre I but I accept it for what it is. So I had some big ambitions for Race 2 Rhodes, not with regard to time or position as I don’t care too much about that, but to try and see how far I could push myself, inspired by many Freedom Challenge heros that have showed the way. Unfortunately timing has not worked out and I won’t be at the race come June.

I have peace but I am sad.

Too console myself I have deliberately avoided the Freedom Challenge website, Facebook page and Twitter List … up to today … and I am today overcome by a severe sense of FOMO. Whilst I have only done two races on the trail, it leaves a deep impression of incredible special memories. I have made many friends through the Freedom Challenge, several of whom I have met and have ridden with and in this age of social media, many whom I have never and may never even meet. Many of these friends will be on the trail from tomorrow for the next 4 weeks. I have tried the avoidance or ignore technique and it has not worked. So from tomorrow I will be tracking every movement on the trail, absorbing every Tweet and every message that makes it into my online world.

To all my friends and not yet friends who will be riding on the Freedom Trail in June 2015, I wish you only the very best of times, be safe, enjoy the incredible journey you will be undertaking and bring back amazing memories. God bless.

PS: If you read this and you also want FOMO then go and visit the Freedom Challenge website at http://www.freedomchallenge.org.za.

Trying out the new Wolwespruit MTB Park

Wolwespruit MTB Park opened on Saturday 4 July, located at the extension of Jochemus Street, Erasmuskloof next to Kloof Hospital (made me wonder when I rode up to the gate). The park is the newest edition on the ever growing community of MTB and trial running parks in Gauteng. The park is MTB and trial running friendly, I in fact saw more runners than cyclists. The full MTB route is about 13km, I like many others rode there, did a loop and rode back home as it is conveniently located in the heart of Pretoria East.

My first impressions. First let me congratulate the team who put Wolwespruit together, a lot of very hard work and long hours have gone into making this dream a reality for them, least of which must have been getting permission to utilize the land. The whole area is fenced in with a barbed fence so other than breaching the perimeter, there should be no unwanted traffic. The route is still brand new so it’s a bit bumpy even with my suspension settings as soft as possible, I am sure the tracks will smoothen up as they get bedded in. The first half of the route in the lower section is tight and twisty and I had my hands full on the 29er. It’s very much a stop and go affair and personally I think there is opportunity to reward with a bit more flowing track which I am sure will come with time. There are three steepish climbs in the park, all get the legs and lungs going but are rideable, really good exercise and a fair challenge. The downhills are a bit rough and took some concentration to navigate down. As with most other sections, as the trial settles in and the tracks open up and smoothen, these are going to be a real treat! Whilst I didn’t find the trials overly technical, they are in my opinion not beginner friendly and this is an opportunity the team should not lose sight of, there’s a big market of experienced riders who want to bring their families along to do easier riding while they tackle the advanced challenges.

I enjoyed the trials and I think it’s a park with great potential. I’ll definitely be a supporter. Congratulations to everyone who made their dream a reality and thank you for some new trials in Pretoria East.

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Wolwespruit Trial (Small)