Written by Marco McKenzie:
A little over three and a half years ago I was awakened by a strong sense of impending doom after realizing that I could barely tie my own shoe laces. I was officially classified as obese and it didn’t resonate with me. I had to do something! I started a long and painful journey to shed the extra kilos and managed to shed the obesity title in just over 8 months through a daily 20km cycle regime.
In 2009 I attempted my first Argus in the most atrocious weather conditions not only wrestling winds in excess of 80km/h but I also had to dodge wind propelled human missiles. The notorious Cape doctor almost brought my new found cycling ambitions to an abrupt halt. I however miraculously seemed to find the courage to persevere. However in 2010 the conditions were virtually the same. It left me so traumatised that I vowed never to return to the Mother City ever again. My delusions of grandeur of becoming South Africa’s next Lance Armstrong was literally blown away in an instant. Somehow after the pain and trauma faded I found myself heading to the 2011 Cape Argus Cycle Tour to compete amongst 35000 other kamikazes against the clock. I remember thinking to myself that if we did not get any respite from the weather Gods this year I’m calling it quits forever. To everybody’s amazement the weather was picture perfect: 23 degrees, slight cooling breeze and overcast. Given my previous two Argus experiences I was very sceptical to whether it will hold for the entire spectacle or would the Cape of Storms once again live up to its unpredictable reputation of having all four seasons in one day?
Claustrophobia, sweaty palms, dry throat, self doubt, trauma flashbacks, butterflies are just some of the things you need to contend with as one anxiously awaits the official start. With the traditional “Whoopah” my 500+ strong over zealous fellow lycra wearing compatriots set off at around 6:55. Most of us hesitantly approached the exit area just beyond the ABSA building. I guess we were all still having flashbacks of last year’s domino style crashes where almost all starting groups paid homage to mother earth less then 50 meters into the race. We were all eternally grateful to Godzilla and Co. for incarcerating The South Easter in Robben Island this year thus allowing us a graceful and uneventful start.
The climb up Edinburgh road passing University of Cape Town is quickly forgotten as you enter the Blue route hitting speeds of over 70km/h in some parts. Boyes drive is infamous for its stiff gradient but the views through Simonstown and Smitswinkel Bay compensates for the inevitable pain of summiting. By this time my 500+ strong group had disintegrated. My lack of training was beginning to surface but I was hanging in there with all my might. Scarborough, Kommetjie, Ocean View all flashed by. A quick internal systems check showed some serious warning signs but being surrounded by these smooth shaven/waxed testosterone driven egos I was not about to eat anybody’s dust. Just as we glided into Noordhoek my first red light was no longer intermittently flashing but on a consistent fire engine red. At this stage my heart rate was permanently redlining clearly exposing my non-existent endurance levels. The longest rides I took during training was never more than two hours as I was focusing on running this year. I’m still not sure why I didn’t heed the warning signs but I kept on pushing trying to hang on with the big dogs!
By the time I reached Chapman’s Peak I could feel the twitches in my upper legs indicative that it was “crocodile mania (cramping)” time. Every single pedal stroke was now becoming a feeding frenzy for the crocodile invested pond. It wasn’t long before the grandpa crocodile made its unceremonious appearance causing me to virtually grind to a halt. “Just keep pushing man, you are BIGGER than these crocs”, I remember saying to myself! As I crawled underneath the overhang just before the steepest part of devils peak I looked down onto the Atlantic Ocean looking for some inspiration from below! Finally I had an epiphany: reach for the cramp block in your cycling tops back pockets, Mr. Flash Gordon!! The bottle cradle somehow had an eagle claw grip on my water bottle. It seemed like an eternity as I struggled to un-holster it and eventually garble down a couple of these crocodile exterminators. Not a moment to soon the screams from the summit’s water point ushered in the descend and my cramps was now a distant memory. Coasting into Hout Bay sucking up the beauty of His creation is a magical experience.
This new found magical bliss was short lived: Suikerbossie was upon me. This is the one hill where you want to look your best as it’s literally lined with thousands of spectators from the bottom right to the top. Crowd support is amazing but its here where I was once again reminded that I left my good legs back in Pretoria. Why would anybody in their right mind give a hill a name as deceptive as Suikerbossie? Was it their way to bring some sweetness to something so horrid; the bitter aftertaste lingers on long after the finish? No matter how they sugar coated it, the only distinct taste in my mouth was as sour as vinegar. A quick internal health check showed major systems failure and imminent shutdown. “Get off and push, you aren’t going win this race anyway dude – just tell me why???” the little voice whispered into my left ear. “If you stop now boy you’ll never get back on… “a deafening voice shouted into my right ear. The crocodiles seemed to have returned with an even greater vengeance than in Discovery’s Crocodile Hunter. I’m sure some people must have thought I was relieving myself as the sweat streamed down my legs giving my bike a long overdue wash. I’m still trying to figure out whether it really was sweat as I lost all sense of control over bodily functions by that time anyway. It felt like I had two detached legs each trying to do a downwards pedal stroke at the same time, completely unsynchronized. I’m not sure whether I was hallucinating but I could have sworn I saw a granddad on a Sedgeway come past me cheering me on: “Looking good sonny boy, catch me if you can”. I tried to utter some less flattering words to express my disdain but somehow I could not get my lips to obey my brains commands. Somehow I managed to stay upright and moving despite every muscle and bone in my body violently objecting throwing their own uncontrollable tantrum. My antics were mistakenly construed as an on bike freestyle dancing show! The rest of my journey to the summit is a blur but I’m sure I was 3kg lighter by the time I reached the top, as my lycra shorts was not a loose fitting skirt.
The last 15km is simply divine and invigorating as one descends into Camps Bay at a fast and furious pace. An internal systems health check showed no signs of any earlier malfunctions or over exertion letting one believe that the instrumentation panels erroneously reported those problems. I easily sustained a 30km average over that last 5km of the route. I was overjoyed to hear the crowd screaming and to see the big finish banner. I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t another hallucination as the lines between reality and fiction was way beyond my comprehension at that stage.
Coming in 3h40 wasn’t exactly the plan but neither was the unbudgeted acquisition of the majority stake in Crocodile Island. All things said and done the weather prevailed, the supporters were awesome, and the camaraderie unheard of and the natural high of finishing is priceless. I probably will be back next year hopefully better prepared to devour The Sugar Coated Crocodile!