I Signed Up for WHAT Challenge?

You go to someone’s housewarming party. The music is good and loud, and you have a few glasses of wine to get yourself onto that dance floor. You have some great conversations with a lot of people, some of whom you’ve never met before. You walk yourself home in a state of bliss way past one o’clock in the morning.

Three days later, you wake up to a harsh reality. “Have you put in your entry yet?” asks your friend eagerly.
“Huh? What entry?” You say.
“Your entry for the 94.7 Cycle Challenge. We talked about this at the party and you said you’d join us.”
I have absolutely no recollection of this. But here I am, two weeks later, staring at my calendar. I did sign up for the Cycle Challenge, because I hate to back out of things I committed to. Even if I can’t remember doing it. And with the void after Kilimanjaro, a bike race seems just like the thing to do, though technically I have no time whatsoever for this.

There are three more weeks to somehow prepare for a 100 km bike race. The biggest timed road race in the world, actually. With a lot of tough hills, as those who’ve done it are quick to point out. On what often seems like the hottest day of the year in Joburg. There is another rather famous South African road race, the Cape Argus in April, but it’s not quite as big as this one (though a lot more scenic).

I have never done a bike race in my entire life. Or any official race for that matter. If you don’t count the 10K charity run I once did with the kids, except it was a run in name only because I pretty much walked all of it. Somebody had to stay with Sunshine who was only seven at the time, and I was happy to oblige. Actually, maybe it was just a 5K race. Details!

Leave it to me to pick as my virgin bike race the biggest one in the world.

This picture is from the 2011 Cycle Challenge in which my brother-in-law participated, flown in all
the way from The Netherlands.
Maybe I should get myself an outfit like that. I’m sure you can hide a whole lot of padding under it!

Luckily my overeager friends had plenty of equipment to contribute, so that at least I didn’t have to go all out and buy expensive stuff. Never mind that that was exactly the excuse I was going to use for backing out. I now have in my garage a really cool road bike (that probably weighs a third of my own clunker of a 25-year old bike) with something like 24 gears. It took me a while to figure out how to work those gears, and I’m still prone to working them exactly the wrong way, but seeing as I’m not planning to set any records, I think I’ll manage.

I was also given a pair of biking shoes, the kind that click into your pedals. I don’t like that idea very much, because I can already see myself forgetting the fact that my feet are fused together with my bike when I need to stop to take a pee, and falling over unceremoniously in front of five thousand people. But I’ll probably manage that part as well.

Look at all the gear my friends lent me. I may not know how to bike, but clearly I’ll be looking very
cool when I do it.

And I think I can pace myself and survive five or more hours of biking, even if it’s hot. We did a training run of almost 40 km a few weekends ago and it wasn’t so bad. This bike practically goes up the hills by itself, I am not kidding you. Supposedly on race day there is plenty of food and drink along the way, and I can’t imagine the toilet situation to be any worse than going up Kili, so all of that should be fine.
No, what worries me most is my bottom. After that first training ride, my bum felt like it was going to fall off. I can positively state that had somebody told me how much it would hurt, I never would have signed up in a million years. I don’t think mankind has put enough thought in saddle design. It is not made for the human anatomy. Or at least not the female human anatomy.
It’s a good thing there isn’t much time left till the race. Because I don’t think I can subject my nether parts to any more bruises from that saddle, even if I’ve been able to source some of those padded biking shorts.

Look at the inner life of these high-tech biking shorts! I hope a “density” of 80, whatever the hell
that means, will be sufficient for my delicate butt.

Now here’s an interesting tidbit I’ve learned from my biking friends: Apparently it’s best not to wear any underwear beneath those shorts, lest it somehow chafes you the wrong way.
Ever since I’ve been privy to this nugget of information, I can’t help but see that race in an entirely new light. Just imagine, a whole army of more or less well-trained, not to say hot-looking dudes all going commando.
I’m sure this vision will easily entertain me for five hours and the race will be over in no time.

Still – will someone remind me, the next time I go to a party, to stop after two glasses of wine, even if it’s Chardonnay? Or who knows, it’ll be all the way to Cairo I’ll be biking next…

2011 94.7 Cycle Challenge in Johannesburg, South Africa