What is it that lets you know you are alive? Are the elves in The Lord of the Rings really and truly “alive”? I’m not so sure.
Well, yesterday morning, I took the opportunity to go and prove to myself I am alive, in the reality sense: getting out there in the “real world” and doing something absurdly physical. I joined family and friends of family on a handicapped race up Jonaskop, near Worcester. The Big Ascent. A 15km trip with a total altitude gain 1180m. But the pain of going up was simply not enough for me.
I had the honour of taking the longest time of all 22 people taking part. It took me nearly two hours and three minutes. I managed to beat my professional-sportsman cousin thanks to a good 58 minute head-start. Yea, 58 minute head-start. He did it in 1h08. Maybe if I do more than two practice rides of 10km and drop some 15kg of my thesis-gut, I could get away with only a 30 minute head-start.
I will upload my altitude profile later, plotted over time rather than distance because I couldn’t find cable-ties at 3 am, but in the mean time, here is my cousin’s speed/elevation/heart-rate plot against distance:
Notice a downhill just after the 13km mark. Now take a look at this photo illustrating the low-visibility conditions:
Now add to that the knowledge that that downhill shortly after the 13km mark was quite steep, quite slippery (though tar), that I have some reckless genes I inherited from somewhere, that I recently reached a point where I have a dangerous lack of fear, and that the tar road makes a sharp turn at the bottom, to avoid a steep downhill through the fynbos, and the stage is set for feeling truly alive.
Oh, and here’s me, keeping going, by visualising triangles and tetrahedrons in my mind, and tracing the edges around and around in varying sequences:
I cannot be certain whether throwing anchor with my body was a conscious choice, an unconscious choice, or merely a loss of control. When I noticed I’m going way too fast to stay on the tar, I turned sideways (sliding back wheel out) and gently went and laid down on the tar. At speed. Instinct? Reflex? Lack of experience to know how to best deal with such hairy situations? (For example, if I didn’t go for the slip/slide route, would I have been able to stay on the road? Not sliding gives you more traction, but if it wasn’t enough, I’d maybe have ended up doing gymnastics, cartwheels, through the fynbos.) Who knows.
The doc did a good job of patching me up:
I want to go to Stellenbosch Gemeente tonight, I hear they’re showing a piece from The Matrix, hehe. Now my upper thigh wound is still oozing a little. I’m not sure what to do about it. I’m thinking maybe put a piece of wood between my teeth and spray on some Merthiolate. The doctor offered me some Myprodol. I thought I had some at home, turns out I don’t. I do have some Gen-Payne, probably from the first time I tore my ankle. I wonder if that’d help. On the other hand, there isn’t that much pain when I’m not busy upsetting the gravitational equilibrium, e.g. going from a horizontal position to a vertical one.
Anyway, for the more official take on the race, take a look at Jonaskop, The Big Ascent on my cousin’s blog.