Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Argus Conquered

So I competed in my first ever cycle race and did the Argus on Sunday. All 110km of it! WooHoo. My results and more details below.
EVENT: Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour (110km)

Event Date: Race Time: Position: Gender Position:
11/03/2012 05:16:52 20504/31331 2896/5468 

Start Group: Group Position:  Age Group: Age Position:
OA         110/367(Top 30%)  F 35-39 419/766  

Avg Speed:

So on Sunday I rode my first ARGUS. For those living under a rock, that's a BIG cycling race in Cape Town, 35 000 participants, cycling 110km over some pretty mountainous terrain.

The route is from the City centre, around the whole pennisula. Starting at the Civic Centre then going along the N2, around hospital bend, onto the M3 (De Waal Drive/The Blue Route) over Wynberg Hill, on through Constantia to Lake Side. Up over Boyes Drive, through Kalkbay, Fish Hoek, Simon's Town, Smitswinkel, Cape Point, Scarbourough, Misty Cliffs, Kommetjie, Noordhoek, Chapman's Peak, Houtbay, Suikerbossie, Llandudno, Campsay, Seapoint and finally finishing at Greenpoint stadium! Whew!! 

There are about 10 significant climbs in there, some meaner and tougher than others.
- Nelson Mandela Boulevard
- Wynberg Hill/Edinburgh Drive!!
- Boyes Drive!!
- Simon's Town to Boulders
- Smitswinkel!!
- Misty Cliffs to Ocean View
- Kommetjie Road
- Little Chappies & Big Chapman's Peak!!!
- Suikerbossie!!!
- Camps Bay to Clifton!

Just to recap. I have never been a cyclist and as a child I didn't even HAVE a bicycle. I've owned one bike ever before, which I bought myself when I was 18. It was a 6-speed Sprinter. I rode it probably 200km total in over 2 years and then it got stolen. I didn't love it, so I was not too upset to be honest.

A couple of years ago I tried a friend's mountain bike and decided a newer bikes, with lots of proper gears, are actually kind of fun. As the boys have grown up and their bikes have got bigger I have also enjoyed riding their bikes a little, AND can't keep up with them while running anymore - never mind having to push them like I used to. There was a time where I would run and have to push them both up the hills!

Anyhoo so I finally got my own bike as a birthday present to myself in May last year. I started riding it and loving it, and before I knew it I had entered the Argus with Matt and Tim. And then the fear and panic set in. What the hell was I thinking!?

Anyway I rode when I could and found I enjoyed it a lot. Even though I am not fast, I have enough gears, determination, stubborness and thigh strength to get up all the hills I rode and finish each ride I started. I tried to cycle about 200km per month since getting the bike, and in the 6 months of 'training' managed to do almost the entire Argus route in sections - sometime sin the wrong direction though. But at least I was familiar with the route and terrain. I did a total of about 2400kms before the race.

I found my average speed on all my rides, long or short was 18-22km/h. I got comfortable with my bike and the gear changes, and had no issue with being on the road or the route but I was still terrified of this race. It was a bit of a mental block actually.

I was worried the distance was too great for me. I had never riden that far in one go, not even close. I ONCE did 106km in a day (2 weeks ago) but that took the entire day and with several fairly long stops. I was petrified of wind. it makes it SO MUCH TOUGHER and scarier!! But mostly I was terrified of there being 35 000 other cyclists on the road. Holy crap, the thought alone horrrified me. Iwas convinced I'd cause, or be implcated in, a crash. I expected it to be mayhem and completely impassably dangerous. I thought I'd be yelled at a lot. I thought I'd be trapped behind people and forced to a stand-still on hills and not have the energy to go on etc.

In the end I did not doubt my fitness, just my ability to navigate this course in a mob of other people. I was used to cars not other bikes.

So it was with great trepidation that I approached the big day on Sunday. Not to mention that I'd not been on my bike for a full 2 weeks beforehand. Thanks to a trip away for 5 nights and then Quinn's big op. And I'd only gotten around to taking my bike to get the tyres changed and brakes checked 2 days before and collected it the day before with no time to test it out! (So not recommended!!). 

So I wasn't feeling at all fit, or even ready, when the big day arrived. In fact I was SO not ready I left my pump at home on the day. Hello!? Preparation -01 take your damned pump! I mean really. What a rookie mistake. Oh well, I figured at least I had myself, my bike and my helmet. That's pretty much all I needed. And other people would have pumps and stuff. LOL. 

The day before had been VERY windy so I was worried about how tough it would be. When the day dawned it was boiling hot, but NOT windy. YAY. I was so pleased though I really didn't care how hot it was. And it really was sweltering. When we started at 09:40 it was already well over 30-degrees and apparently at 14:30 it was 45-degs on the top of Chapman's Peak. H.O.T!

Thankfully I'd loaned a Camelbak from Tim so I had at least 2 liters of fluids with me. As our start time drew near I changed from being nervous to excited. The whole thing is VERY well organised. Soon we were in our chute and ready to start. With our group's 'Hopla' being yelled by the commentator, our group's starting song played 'Don't slow down you're gonna crash', which I loved and off we went.

Tim and I started at an easy pace, and managed to stay together and chatted comfortably to each other for the first 20kms or so. The first tough hill - Wynberg hill - saw me passing loads of people. I was actually surprised at just how slow a lot of folks were. I found it motivating to see that I was actually quite fit and strong, passing young fit looking guys and their fancy expensive road bikes and cleats. Me on my trusty entry-level mountain bike and tackies!

I was not sure what my strategy was yet, or when and how much to stop, but decided to play it by ear and see how it went. Tim and I got split up at Simon's Town. He'd been slightly ahead since Glencairn and I didn't realise he'd stopped at the refreshment station, so I pressed on trying to catch him, not realising I'd already passed him. I turned on my iPOD and trundled along alone quite merrily. Chatting to passers by, 'Passing right' being passed-right, and generally just enjoying the vibe. I found the riders communicated well and cooperated nicely. It was fun and pleasant and not scary at all.

Just before the tough Smitswinkel climb at 50kms in I stopped for the first time - but just for a minute to drink some Powerade and fill up my water bottle. I also ate half an Energy Bar - my mental strategy to 'give me energy' for the climb ahead, which turned out to be not so bad and again I was passing loads of people and even accelerating past people. :) So I kept going and going. I stopped very briefly again in Noordhoek to SMS my sister, who had the boys, just to let her know where I was and how I was doing. I had some trail mix then, to give me strength for the big mental challenge of CHAPPIES. 

Boy was it HOT by then. It was already after 1pm. Some people were flagging around me and getting ratty, screeching 'hold your line' to others who were veering off course from heat and exhaustion. I made sure I had some good music and kept on going. So many people were stopped and/or walking on Chapman's Peak. They just couldn't go on. I was determined NOT to walk or stop though so I KEPT GOING. Until right at the very top we were all stopped and told to get off our bikes and wait. Bummer. There was some kind of old up or pile up or something and we had to wait a few minutes for this to clear before we could go on. Since there was a refreshment station right there, I filled my bottle again. And then off I went.

Suikerbossie, which really is the BIG MAMA of the race, was a killer in the heat. But the Hout Bay crowd are awesome and help so much with their energy and encouragement, and water and ice etc. They are definitely the best supporters by far. But wow it was a slog to get up that beast. With my last energy boost - a chocolate flavoured GU sachet. Which I clutched and sucked on desperately every minute or so. And  I did it, on my bike and unassisted (most other females were being pushed at that point by spectators or the guys they were with) and the photographer I passed commented on how much I was grinning. One lady yelled 'Go Mrs GU!' which gave me a chuckle and surge or energy to keep going. Because you know what, even though it was hot and tough-going, I was LOVING it. I'd had a tough, stressful and worrisome few weeks and really this was just a fabulous way to get my mind off everything else. I really WAS enjoying myself!

After Suikerbossie I cruised through to Campsbay, with one very brief stop at Oudekraal for more fluids and then on the the end. I had a brief cramp-scare coming out of Campsbay, but I changed down to a super low gear and spun it out for a minute and then I was fine again. Yay. I saw many (mostly men) suffering badly with cramps.

Once I hit Seapoint I was amped and upped my pace to 35+kms/h and cruised comfortably and gleefully to the finish. I DID IT!

My bike was perfect, I had no issues at all, and didn't need the pump or anything in the end. It just did the job.

So my official time is:  05:16:52 I must say I am rather chuffed with that I really did not think I was able to finish in under 6 hours. And am impressed at how 'easy' I found it. I mean it was by no means easy, but I was really expecting a LOT worse, in terms of difficulty, scariness and danger etc. I fully expected to have to stop and rest along the way and to be totally broken afterwards. But I am FINE. :)

I must say I REALLY enjoyed it and definitely think I'll enter again. Still not really interested in entering any other races or being competitive or needing to spend a fortune on cycling stuff. But would like to keep doing the sort of rides I have been, when I have the time, and will do it again I am sure. I thought it was an incredibly well run event, and by all accounts the weather conditions were tough on most people. HOPLA!


  1. Lovely post. Congrats Jane - You did the AAAAAAAArgus. I must say I am green with envy. This is the best cycle race in my opinion.

  2. Super well done Jane! Wow you can be so proud of yourself!

  3. Wow wow wow. That is FANTASTIC. Seriously. What an achievement. Well done!