Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 157 Issue 157 - March 2023 | Page 55

The pure emotion of finishing the biggest challenge I had ever undertaken !
On day three of the Sani2C , I hit a rut , was thrown over the handlebars and knocked out
Riding partner , Warren van der Vyver and I , collecting our Absa Cape Epic finisher medals in 2014
When you love a sport , you learn the true meaning of the saying , “ suffering for your art .” All rational thought goes out the proverbial window ! I am not saying I pushed myself to the point of madness , but what I did do is go get a lot stronger , and when I went back to Sani2C the following year , it was fun . It was still hard , but it was fun hard , and at that finish line , I felt a triumph in my heart that was exhilarating . I knew that a whole lot more awaited me , because , well , with an addiction , you keep going back …
A Challenge Too Far
Once I had completed a few more races , both onedayers and stage events , I found I was getting more and more into riding , so I was investing in a proper bike , better kit , and all the paraphernalia that goes with it , and my mornings started at 4am , where I would train for an hour and then gym . Weekends were now for riding , and it was a lifestyle . I loved it .
Then one day , sitting on social media at work ( we ’ ve all done it ), I suddenly saw a tweet from the JAG Foundation putting it out there for riders to tackle the ABSA Cape Epic on behalf of the Foundation . I replied without really thinking , and before I knew it , I had an entry ! With the Epic being the ultimate stage race , I dove headfirst into training and getting ready . We got sponsors , we fundraised , and it was an all-consuming challenge . With this massive goal in front of me , I was committed , but I didn ’ t realise at the time that my whole life had become this event .
The race eventually rolled around , and I started , but I didn ’ t finish . Having fallen ill during the race , I was told I had two choices : Keep riding , or keep my kidneys . Now you might think that this was an obvious decision … but it wasn ’ t . This all-consuming race had taken everything of me , and being forced to retire was devastating . I considered never riding again , as a form of grief took me into a very dark , unhealthy space . Of course , some may say that we should never let something rule us like that , but when you invest so much of yourself into something , and it gets ripped away from you , then it ’ s hard to get over .
Given Another Chance
Somehow , the following year , I was granted a lifeline – another entry into the race that had broken me . This time I had a different riding partner , who was better suited to my speed and ability , and with another dose of determination , I set to , because I had unfinished business and a score to settle . I trained , I worked hard , and when that start arrived , I was ready . I rode hard , and I made it through every stage , until finally that finish line on the last day came into view , and at last I could say I had done it , I had finished the Epic .
I will always be grateful for that second chance I got to ‘ settle the score ,’ but what followed was what I can only describe as a void . I had achieved the biggest challenge I had ever undertaken , and I was in the shape of my life , but what now ? I carried on riding , but there was always that lingering question of what should the next challenge be ? And looking back now , that was the problem .
I had reached the top of my game . At least , I had reached the top of where I thought I could go , in relation to my abilities as a normal , non-elite rider . In
that , I felt a loss , because how do you go higher , how do you achieve more , how do you find something that will bring you that high that you have been chasing for as long as you can remember ? I felt I had reached the plateau , and for a while afterwards I was lost .
Finding the New High
It will be 10 years ago this year that I completed what I felt was my biggest sporting challenge , something that defined me as a cyclist for a long time , and for the last two years , I have played with the idea of going back . In fact , I had every intention of riding the Epic again , to prove to myself that I can do it , and in spite of the challenges of being a mother , a wife , a business owner , and having commitments that would take strain if I gave in to the demands of the training that I know would be waiting for me , I did want to do it . And I ’ ll be honest , that feeling of wanting to prove myself was there , in the wings , and the itch to get it scratched was back … but not the commitment .
Then last year , after a very tough two years – thanks , COVID – I was given an entry into the Nedbank Tour de Tuli . What awaited was four days of riding through the African Bush , and I was excited . In fact , I was like a kid on Christmas Eve , waiting to go to sleep so that Santa could come . The idea of riding the Tuli had me fired up again , but on a whole new level : Not for the challenge , but for the experience .
Arriving at the tour , I had all the butterflies and nerves that one experiences before a multi-day event , when you somehow talk to everyone about how fit you are , and what you are expecting the experience to be like , and you try to sound confident . I didn ’ t want to bring up my past experience , because I felt like a fish out of water in some respects . It was the first real
Images : Action Photo SA , Francois Theron & Jeff Ayliffe & courtesy Roxanne Martin
My mum , Joy van Winsen , and I with Farmer Glen at the finish of Sani2C
The shebeen stop at Rhodes ’ Baobab on day three of the Nedbank Tour de Tuli