Who are we kidding, the Cape Epic isn't all "tasty waves and jam'n with the Stones", it's 8 days of fluctuating pain and pleasure. The following is an attempt to put to words the gross, bad, and ugly that I'm expecting to experience over the 8 days of the Cape Epic.
Cape town ski, night before prologue '15
When we finally make it to the start ramp for the prologue at 8:05am, so much of my pre-race anxiety will be washed away; however, short lived, it'll be the "gun" prompting a jam pile of hurt. The prologue is a great days ride for many - 26km's with 750m of climbing. Looking through my rides on Strava, I can't find a single ride where I rode anything close to 26km and climbed as much. The effort will bring the question of "did I do enough training" to the forefront. My legs will burn considering it'll be the first hard ride since I was in Edmonton.
Even though we will take it slow for the sake of the following 7 days, we'll not shy away from any taxing climbs (later in the week, climbs that require too much effort will be walked to conserve energy).
The prologue will be tame compared to what I expect the next day; 101km with 2300m of vertical - things change dramatically.
I've done enough racing to know that I will experience waves of ill feeling throughout the day. Those of you who've raced any distance; running, bicycle, triathlon, etc. know the waves of ill I speak of. In an instant our mind and/or body gives us a "WTF" and we're hurting in some way. If this was a 5k run, it'd maybe happen once or twice, and it's all over in a few minutes, but we're looking at 8+ hours of this kind of thing, so could happen a dozen times a stage.
Assessing the hurt is crucial:
- Is it fixable? A pebble in the shoe would stay there if this was a sprint, but considering it's all all day affair, I'd be making a pearl if I left it alone.
- Is it temporary? A stitch, stuck burp, bad thought, in most cases can work themselves out with time.
- Is it a bonk? It's hard, and in most cases impossible, to come back from improper fuelling. Avoiding cramps or a bonk is make or break!
- Am I in danger? Not trusting a fart is good practice, but besides embarrassing, it's not the end of the world if you choose poorly. I know myself well enough to not go so deep that I'll end up on a stretcher.
If I fuel properly I should avoid a bonk, but no amount of food will help me think good thoughts for the entire 690km's. I noticed that as the days go on, I get tired of thinking. Thinking about the right lines to ride, blocking out the pain, dialling back too much effort on climbs (and debating when to walk to save energy), and even trying to dwell on the good times makes my head hurt.
On course I set attainable goals to help bolster my mood, optimistically living in the moment so to speak. Hundreds of goals a day, trying to find enjoyment in the little accomplishments and not dwelling on the finish line. It becomes hundreds of lies I keep telling myself as if to trick my body into continuing. The constant internal chatter begs to be quelled for the sake of not going mad.
Off the bike:
We had just finished a hot/sunny stage in '15. Evan had to drag me in for the last 25km because I was cooked and my brain went south. As I hobbled my way down the finish shoot, I felt terrible, and started to get tunnel vision. About to pass out, I wanted to see the medic who was standing there collecting the damaged. After being escorted to a seat in the shade, the medics forefingers on my wrist, he started with the questions: "What's your name", "Whats your teammates name", "Where are you from"...etc After a minute of Q and A, I made some joke about how I knew what the vetting was all about. The medic chuckled and said "you're fine, buuuuut, tonight is going to suck!"
We made our way to the recovery tent and Evan coached me through my bag of food. "Eat it all Coleman!" he said too many times; yummy, nausea and chicken salad! The evening was terrible. Trying to manage the routine, knowing I had to eat with zero appetite, made for a long night.
Oddly, I woke the next morning feeling magnificent! Good thing too, because it ended up being my day to carry Evan through some bad km's.
Eating is good when it's good, and terrible when it's not. When I can't say "no thank you", and just the thought of eating makes me nauseous, it can be hard to stomach even that which sounds appetizing. After eating throughout the stage, knowing we have the recovery zone satchel of fresh food can be a motivator, but knowing I need to eat every ounce of it can take a titanium will. My on-bike consumption of protein drinks and peanut butter with whey sandwiches makes for some uncomfortable GI distention and expulsions (thank goodness we have our own tents).
- My legs will ache. The first few clod-hops from tent to toilet will hurt, and I'll have to shuffle a bit before I can walk with a semi normal stride.
- My ass will hurt. All the chamois cream can't magically make me lighter, and keep the focused weight off of my taint. The first moment I sit on a hard chair for breakfast, not to mention on my saddle, and it'll be a literal pain in the arse.
- The sun is relentless and hot. Sunscreen is donned pre ride, and at aid stations, but I will still feel hot/cooked skin. On course, simply finding shade to refill our bottles etc. is a moment of welcomed relief.
- Sweat and rain will make the African dust make it's way into high friction areas. The tops of my shoes will rub my ankles raw and will require taping.
- My hands will hurt from holding on too tight through the rough descents.
- I was sick with the flu for the first few days of the race in '15. Coughing, fever, etc.
No pain no gain:
If we make it to the Grande Finale in Val de Vie in Paarl, it'll all worth it. The frozen months of training, and the hours in the gym will be forgotten, and we'll be flying high. We will quickly forget about the taped-up, burnt, and bruised parts, and look forward to the nights sleep in a real bed. At some point, and I suspect right before my eyes close that night, my belly full of beer and sushi, I'll say in a raspy and tired inner voice, "what now?".
Finish! Lips cracked and bleeding, yet the smile was genuine! (Evan opened his bubbly in the room that night, and proceeded to spray it all over the curtains (sorry Marilize))
It's taper time and our bags are packed. 7 days until I leave and 13 until the race. As always, thank you for following along, and all of your support.