What the Cape Epic giveth…
She can just as easily take away.
Over the eight days of the Absa Cape Epic I found new levels of strength and new depths of determination. With every passing obstacle, emotional, physical, or meteorlogical, I uncovered a piece of me which had previous been obscured. It seemed, by day 7, that I could take on anything the world would throw at me.
Landing back in England after an arduous 12 hour flight, I felt this strength coming home with me. It felt odd waking up and not doing 6 hours in the saddle. I wanted to take on the world again.
Mentally, I was hungry for more. And I was physically starving. Eating everything in sight, my body disappeared food like magic. And I slept. I slept that calming sleep of warriors. But the calm was short-lived.
Before I could even unpack, we’d put our bikes in the car and headed to France for the UCI XCM at Laissac. And I had beans. My legs were jumping, my energy was high. I cruised to the start-line ready to smash whatever trail laid wait. And then the whistle blew.
Still clipping in, I was left motionless behind a peloton of various national champions. They were there. And then they weren’t. All I could do was tick the legs over and pray there would be someone slower. There wasn’t.
As I warmed up, I slowly worked my way from the back. One rider. Then two. 40kms into the 65k women’s race, I was pressing through the remaining stragglers. But my legs had nothing. No fire. No gumption. I could make up time on the technical singletrack, but every effort was exhausted the moment the route turned toward the sky. There was no rhythm to find.
And then I crashed. And not even doing anything difficult.
Gravelly fire road gave way beneath my wheels and I flew over the handlebars on a loose turn. The painful pop and fizz of my tyres as my bike flew toward the heavens behind me could only mean one thing.
Tears mixed with snot and carbohydrate gel as I stooped over my flaccid front tyre, pumping like a madwoman to bring it back to life. All my efforts were in vain. Latex bubbled out of my rim and even as I rolled down the track on semi-inflated tyres, I could hear the shallow hissing of my ego getting gut-punched.
Every off-camber meter of trail flipped me into the brambles, rumbling tyres refusing to stay upright. By the time I conceded to properly fix the puncture, I basically couldn’t take it anymore. The 8 days of the Epic seemed like a blissful dream, light years away from where I was: sobbing on the side of the trail with an utterly broken spirit. Pulling out of the race seemed the only logical option, but my bloody-minded legs wouldn’t let me. Rolling into the finish line in last position, the tears welled up once again.
I had nothing. Empty from a mere 65k, I wanted to hide away from the world. I wanted to pretend the day had never happened, that I was still in South Africa with the chance to redeem myself the next day.
A riders eye view of the ‘Roc’
No such luck. On my return to London, my body took a turn for the worse. After two weeks living on a diet almost exclusively of carbohydrate gel and dust, my digestive system began to shut down. Even the simplest of foods didn’t want to stay down.
Adding insult to injury, my sun-burned arms began to peel. A layer of skin on my bum fell off where repeated days in the saddle had literally left me raw.
I felt like a bruised and broken leper… This wasn’t what I had signed up for. They don’t warn you about these things. For every muscle gained, for ever meter defeated, your body gives something deeper.
I write this from bed in the depths of a stomach bug, plotting my revenge. Like a drug, the marathon taunts me. It wants me back. And I want to take it for all it’s worth.