My first international race was in Pietermaritzburg (PMB) South Africa this past weekend and it went pretty good if I do say so myself.
We left McCarran airport in Vegas on a Friday afternoon and finally arrived in Durban South Africa some 2 days later on Sunday. With the time difference it’s only two days without the time difference it’s 3 but it felt like a week. Short flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco then catch an international flight from San Francisco to Dubai…15 hours of flying bliss! Actually Emirates does it right and many airlines could learn a lot from them…especially the food! “Hory Sheet “ it was actually good…I mean actually good!
Landed at Dubai airport, which is massive by the way, to catch our driver to get to the hotel for an overnight stay. Let’s set the scene…something I learned in Dubai is that the faster you are driven or drive the more important you are and other drivers yield to the faster driver. Our driver had to of been a retired formula one driver…holy shit that dude drove fast. I’ve from Las Vegas where people drive fast…this dude put them to shame. Welcome to Dubai International please “Get In, sit down, shut up and hang on!! 5 minutes later we arrived at the hotel, no joke!
Up early to catch the morning flight to Durban…another long flight but only eight hours this time. I’ll put in here this is when I started shivering and did so for 8 hours because being skinny sucks some times.
Land in Durban only to find that my bike box and wheel case hasn’t made it…it was actually still in the states come to find out. Well time to collect the rental car and get to Pietermaritzburg for some much needed rest. Nothing like driving on the opposite side of the road at night after some long travel days with a GPS that cut out half way to the guest lodge. No map, no cell service, no nothing in the van. A couple friends in the other van had the only working GPS, which gave out on the way to the airport the next day picking up another member of the crew for the week. FN technology!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Bed and Breakfast that we all stayed at was fantastic and our host and kitchen staff was top notch. Google Arlington Guest Lodge to find out more about it. Ben, Aggie, and Derrick are fantastic people and made our crew of 8 feel right at home. We had the entire Bed and Breakfast for most of the week, which was good with 3 trikes, wheel cases, bike boxes, rollers, and 2 bikes it was a bit full.
Let the fun begin!!!
Remember the shivering…yep I got sick and as I type this I’m just starting to feel better. International race crisis level was stuck on 11 the whole time but I have an awesome coach who had prepared me for such things like this. Many thanks to my coach for your experiences that help keep me going when “crisis mode” is WFO.
In the meantime, while waiting for my trike, it was off to get classified at the Imperial Hotel in downtown PMB. This hotel was built back in the 1800’s and for being around 190 years old was beautiful. It’s actually a historical icon (or whatever that’s called) and they really can’t change it. Even better, why change something that’s beautiful.
(Enter Coolaid guy, “Oh yeah!”) I finally got classified correctly as a T1 with a fixed date so if I get chosen to go to Rio I can. This clears up 3 years of confusion trying to get it right, but who’s counting? Lesson learned #2: sometimes the UCI puts you into a category to see what you’ll do with it and see if the athlete can come up to a higher level of competition.
Three days later my trike finally arrives!! Yay! Time to put it together and shook down before the World Cup race the following day. Course recon was an interesting time, as South Africa doesn’t have bike lanes like we do in the states. You just ride in the lane and hope for the best. Quite literally cars would pass so close that their mirrors would be maybe a foot away…sketchy it was…but nobody got upset if they had to wait behind a trike if the road didn’t allow a safe passage. They were close don’t get me wrong but respectful, unless it was a cab company (run by the mafia) then you just get the hell out of the way!
Race day morning arrives, it’s just pissing down rain and I still feel like crap. My body finally woke up hungry, which is fantastic and just in time. Eat everything I can find then head to the venue for the time trial, the first of two races that weekend. It was decided that the best warm up for my legs would be massage so I can keep my energy level high but still warm up for the race. That was done, thanks Sam, and off to the start house on time only to wait 20 minutes for an accident to clear the road. It was bad enough that the cars went into the racecourse barriers. 20 minutes later it was clear and it was race time!!!
As my time counts down I hear over the speakers AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill…my thought are “HELL YEAH” and off I go! My time trial was only 2 laps so after about a ½ km it was time to “Drop Z Hammer!! No time to mess about and about a ½ km later my chain decided to come off on the only climb…yep crisis mode up to 12…got a bit of help as allowed in Para-cycling and back to dropping the hammer, this time some 2 ½ minutes down from where I was. Yep it cost me that much time!!
Side note: I need to mention South Africa has speed bumps on a whole other level. One big hump followed by three smaller bumps and there were somewhere around 15 of those things on the course. My bits hurt at the end due to me not really slowing down for them…I caught air on a few of those things…I swear I did! It was sketchy to do in the rain but I got skills so I wasn’t worried until my hands decided to come off. Well no need to poop later or take a shower, this day is epic!! LOL! Those things were brutal and after that I slowed just a little, not much, but a little. You know what they say, “Safety third.”
At the end of my first Dukes of Hazzard lap the time came to drop down deep into the pain cave and stoke the fire, as I wasn’t happy with losing so much time.
(At this point I’m cursing the “Rain down in Africa” and not blessing it Toto!)
As the second lap of playing Dukes of Hazzard on the speed bumps comes to an end I’ve made up a ton of time to cross the finish line exhausted and was actually having a hard time breathing. That race hurt. I’m not talking about discomfort I’m talking about putting it into the 7th layer of hell pain and not backing out of it! Just because you're sick doesn’t mean anything, you still have to put in work.
"Easy like Sunday morning" race day and its Mother‘s Day to boot. My mom was with me for this race and I wanted her to appreciate me dragging her half way around the world to race a trike on Mother’s Day.
The race went a bit like this: 2 dropped chains (before and after the climb from the day before), another late start, more Dukes of Hazzard laps over the speed bumps, loose shoes, raining harder than the previous day, dropped the hammer from the start to the finish = one awesome race!!!
COOL ALERT!!! By the end of the day I was put into the World Cup leader’s jersey on Mother’s Day. Considering where I started this spinal cord injury journey, barely able to move to standing on the top step of the podium at a World Cup in South Africa was the best way to say thank you to such a wonderful mother who has been with me every step of the way. Thank you mom and much love for always being there for me, I couldn’t have done it without you!!!!
The remaining time was spent packing and relaxing for the flights home. It’s been a long time since I’ve been up for 40 hours straight and I don’t miss it…nope, not one bit. Arrived in Vegas at night and was blessed with a beautiful view of the “Brightest City On Earth.” I really do love living here!!
There are two remaining World Cup races this year, Belgium and Spain. No World Championships due to the Paralympic year. I’ll miss Belgium and I’m trying to put together the funds to go to Spain to finish the year at the top of the UCI ranking list for the division I’m in. Don’t know about Rio yet, as many people have asked me, as there is so much to do before then and if it’s meant to be it’ll happen. There are 9 spots for the women and 9 spots for the men on the Rio Team across 5 classes and a ton of athletes to choose from. After former paralympians, ring fencing and such are done the spots fill up quick…but that’s a whole other post in itself.
I need to thank a few people before I’m done.
Go Fast Sports and Beverage out of Denver, CO. Thank you so much for the cool wrap on the van and still supporting me in Las Vegas. I hope the exposure here has been good for the brand and some people have said the original Go Fast tastes like strawberries…
A special shout out to Etienne at Belgium Cycles and Wittson Titanium Cycles for building me a kick ass converted axle trike frame. Way to nail it!!
My coach for putting up with my constant questions about just about anything under the sun. Your guidance will no doubt get me where I need to go to do some “Epic Sh*t” in Paracycling.
My family and friends for just about everything I can think of. You all make the pain and suffering seem just a little easier.
Until next time, hopefully not 6 months later, I really do have a ton of posts started but haven’t finished them yet. Training does get priority; however telling everyone about South Africa was a much-needed distraction.