My Argus journey began with an impulsive decision to join the Chaeli Riders in raising awareness for the Chaeli Campaign and to raise funds for a motorised wheelchair for Damian. That was towards the end of October 2011. I had been urged a number of times to get in touch with the Chaeli Campaign, and with Damian’s 13th birthday approaching, I thought perhaps it was time to make contact and get ideas of what other kids were doing. Sometime during the meeting with Zelda, she mentioned the Chaeli Riders, and suggested that if I knew anyone doing the Argus, to get them to ride for Damian. I don’t remember the point where I decided that I would be that person, but not even owning a bike or having been on a bike in the last 10 years, I volunteered!
That was Thursday… On Saturday, during coffee with friends, Helena and Gary, I mentioned this in my excitement. On 12th November, Damian’s 13th birthday, we were so surprised to be given a bicycle with a rickshaw for Damian that Gary and Helena had organised sponsorship for! And in that moment there was no changing my decision or backing out! The idea was that I would do the Argus with Damian in the rickshaw to create awareness. Stefan of Faith in Motion Productions was asked to film a documentary of all of this and the hard work began.
I started out with 5km then built up to 10 km and then 14km. I alternated between the 10km and 14km routes depending on the time I had available in the evenings. After the Christmas holidays I decided to enter our first event – a 35km Journey for Sight & Service, organised by the Kirstenbosch Lions, on 8 January. It was a jump in the deep end for my training, and a bit more than I anticipated. Ou Kaapse Weg was an enormous challenge with Damian in the rickshaw and I battled my way up, walking most of the way. Near the top we encountered extremely strong winds that threatened to turn Damian’s rickshaw into a kite! Fortunately a traffic officer had been following us, and she assisted me by getting Damian and the rickshaw into her police car and transporting Damian around the bend to where Stefan, who had been filming our ride, was waiting in the car with his colleagues. They took Damian for the rest of the way and I completed the ride. I could barely move the next few days!
And so our real training began. I would still alternate between my 10km and 14km route during the week and then aim for a longer ride on the weekend. I had one training session with Brett, who has done the Argus, and did my first bit of hill training on the slopes of the Blouberg residential area, with Brett trying to show me that as hard as it is climbing, I just need to focus on getting to the top and then feeling how quickly I recover on the straight or downhill afterwards. From there we headed out on the cycle track of the R27, but I really battled on the way back and again I was very stiff the next day. We did about 30km that day. In February I started with our 46km weekend route, along the beach road from Melkbos, through Blouberg and onto the R27/West Coast Road up until where the bicycle track ends at the Paarden Eiland robots and then back home. This was a good ride, but very flat. We did that two weekends in a row and then our last event before the Argus was the Bay City ride. I was only allowed to do the 43km route as I could not get permission from Pedal Power to do the 84km with Damian. It was a good ride, but a real eye opener as to just how heavy it is towing Damian up the hills and my timing.
On that Monday, we had our meeting with the cycle tour organisers to discuss their reasons for declining our request for me to take Damian with on the Argus. Their concerns I believe all could be overcome, I’m sure if we had enough time, we could work with the organisers to make it possible. I was given an e-mail address where I could send my responses to their concerns.
On Tuesday, I woke with a head cold! Panic episode number 1! Just under two weeks before the Argus! I immediately went and bought every possible natural cold and flu fighter, and was alternating between Linctagon effervescent, Biogen natural antibiotic, Hot Toddy’s, Vitamin C, raw honey, and garlic by the cloves. As a friend commented… I could have driven an elephant out with all of that! An elephant, maybe, but not the stubborn cold! On Friday, I received the final “NO” from the organisers. I was really disappointed, but I happened to see the adverts for the Junior Argus and decided Damian would still get to have his moment and entered him in the 5km route with his ‘special trike’. When I took my bike in to be serviced, I bumped into Rejeanne of the Bumble Bee Fund, who I had met on New Year’s Day by chance and who was also doing the Argus for their cause. I mentioned Damian doing the Junior Argus and she invited us to join the Bumble Bee Fund for the ride and for Damian to wear their cycling jerseys.
That weekend was frustrating, I knew it was the last weekend I had to train, but my cold was not relenting and Damian ended up sick with a tummy bug and so we were house bound. During the next week, I used my time on the ground to get my two assignments in before the weekend. On the Monday I went to the parents booster session at Chaeli Cottage. I got home after 10pm, not feeling so well with my cold, and stupidly checked my e-mail at that time of the night. I read an e-mail from the Argus reminding us about correctly attaching our timing chips – which we were supposed to order and would be in our registration packs – which I had not ordered! Panic episode number 2! I phoned Racetec first thing in the morning and was relieved to hear I could buy one at the Expo when I fetched my race pack.
I fetched Damian’s shoes from the repair shop on the Friday before his ride. These shoes get bolted to the pedals of his trike and then his feet, in his splints, get strapped into the shoes – allowing him to pedal. That night as I fixed them to his bike, panic episode number 3 occurred… 3 flat tyres on his tricycle! I tried, in vain, to pump them up with the bicycle pump. I got up extra early praying they were all just flats and not punctures. I took it to the garage, and fortunately they all inflated! Damian had such a fun time at the Junior Argus. He managed around 2km which is a huge distance for him. He was enjoying the ride but the material wrapped around the bar that keeps his knees from scissoring began to chafe his leg and we needed to stop. The marshall showed us a shortcut back to the finish line, I put Damian on my back and we walked back. He was so proud to get his medal and goodie bag. Stefan and Louise had come with to film Damian’s ride for the documentary and Damian had many laughs on the way home in the back of the car with Stefan. When we got home he slept for the rest of the afternoon, and then he went to sleep at Gary and Helena as I was going to leave early to do the Argus in the morning. Getting out of the car, I walked into a frond of the palm tree in our yard and the pointy tip went into my foot, between my toes. It swelled up and began to ache badly – the night before the Argus… and roll over to panic episode number 4! I doctored it with a herbal wound gel that we got in our goodie bags from the Expo (Argus organisers think of everything!) and hoped for the best.
My alarm went off at 5am and I thought ‘it’s Sunday, why is my alarm going off?’ I was just turning it off when I registered and shot out of bed in excitement! I wasn’t quite sure where the start point was or where I was going to find parking and so I made sure to leave extra early. Turns out I didn’t need to do that… at6:30 am the R27 from Melkbos all the way to city centre was lined with vehicles with bicycles attached to them. All I had to do was follow. Parking was easy to find at the CTICC and so I was an hour and a half early for my ride. I am NEVER early for anything, so already I was feeling good. It was sweltering at 7am in the city and so I knew I was in for a long, hot ride. I met up with a few other Chaeli Riders and we waited for our group to load into the chutes. Our start time was 8:26am in group MM. Being in the chutes was exhilarating. As we started moving forward, with the music blaring “Stand up, for the champions, for the champions, stand up”, the vibe just overwhelms you and you can’t wait for the gun to go so you can get onto the road. Eventually we were out the chutes and the first sign was in view… 110km to go! Now, having not been on my bike in two weeks, and still not fully over my cold, I knew I should take it easy starting out. I had learned from the few long rides that I had done that the first 10 to 15 kilometres are the hardest for me as my muscles are still tight and my lungs cold. I get very out of breath in the beginning and my legs burn. Still, knowing this, in that space of time I had the first, and only doubt, that I could finish. I stopped for my first bit of refreshment on the slight incline just after Rhodes Drive changes. By the time we were on the open M3 again and approaching the Ladies Mile bridge I was feeling better and gave a big wave when I saw Zelda, Chaeli and the rest of the Chaeli supporters on the bridge. By the end of the M3 I was warm and tackled Boyes drive with very little difficulty. I had done this climb two weeks before with Damian, and so doing it then without the extra weight made it almost an easy climb. Fish Hoek to Simonstown is a beautiful stretch to cycle, the views are incredible.
Heading out of Simonstown I found the best energy source to get my legs pumping up the hill… baboons on the road! This was my dread leading up to the Argus as I fear baboons, in a big way. I think it stems from a camping trip at a dam in the middle of nowhere, just myself, my friend Mary and Damian, with baboon movement around our tent in the night. Anyway, I found myself hoping I didn’t have open food on me that would attract the attention of the huge baboons walking in between all the cyclists and I kind of manoeuvred my way between other cyclists to try and be as inconspicuous as possible. Not that the baboons were concerned with any of us anyway. But I did not want to tempt my notorious luck for crazy things happening to me!
Going along the coast of Scarborough was also amazing – there was a cool mist-like breeze coming off the sea that was so refreshing. I started to feel fatigue at the ‘30km to go’ point along the Kommetjie Road leading up to the Chapman’s Peak turnoff. I drink a lot of energy drinks along the way but eating makes me feel nauseous. At that point though people were handing out bananas and I forced myself to eat half a banana before facing Chapman’s Peak because I really wanted to be present and alert for that stretch of the tour. When I first signed up to do the Argus I remember saying that I couldn’t wait to reach Chapman’s Peak. Although I had done the climb beforehand as training, it was still one of the highlights for me as the view is breathtaking. There was quite a bottleneck of cyclists at the top of Chapman’s and so we all had to get off and walk that stretch. The ride down into Hout Bay is a lovely recovery ride and brief rest before heading out to tackle Suikerbossie.
Suikerbossie was tough. I heard afterwards that around the time I passed through, it was 41 degrees in that area. It was the only stretch I needed to walk part of the way up and felt really exhausted. People sprayed us with their hosepipes and when I heard the beginning of “Eye of the Tiger” blaring it pushed me up the hill with a determination that is brought on purely by crowd support and encouragement and a sense of not being in this alone but rather a part of something big and glorious. Once at the top of Suikerbossie it’s the 15km home stretch and suddenly I got my second wind and kept good rhythm towards the finish line. Throughout the ride, I was still battling with my cold and having to stop and blow my nose which was frustrating. The finish line appeared before I expected it to and I was almost caught off guard crossing it. And so I didn’t have that ‘air punch’ moment people talk about – my euphoria hit shortly after crossing. Then the hardest 5km or so of the ride lay ahead of me… getting back to my car from the finish line.