Thursday, June 12, 2014

Preparing for Battle

Getting to the start-line of the Freedom Challenge is in itself, quite an accomplishment. Apart from the obvious mission of acquiring all the right gear and preparing your bike, you also have to prepare to put your normal life on hold for the better part of a month. The extended escape from your life, job, society and daily norms is perhaps one of the biggest barriers to entry for this race but it is also part of the reason that this event is so special. It is a journey of discovery for everyone who takes part. Discovery of the beautiful country we call home but also discovery of one’s self. 3 weeks alone on your bike gives you a lot of time to ponder life, clear the mind and hit reset.

Training obviously starts months ahead of D-day. RASA demands a slightly different training regime to your average MTB event. It’s all about time in the saddle and if you are not riding your bike then best you be carrying it. That’s right, hiking over mountains with your bike on your shoulders is going to become the norm once on the trail so it is worth getting some practice in. Training is one thing but the preparation stage gets real when you have to start packing support station boxes.

The race is unsupported and riders need to carry everything they require but there are 25 available support stations en route at which riders are given a bed, shower and warm meal. Riders must also pre-pack 25 2l ice-cream tubs which are distributed to the support stations by race organizers. Riders will typically pack race food/snacks, spares, maps and other consumables in these boxes and this packing process can take days. The route is self-navigated which means riders must also spend valuable time familiarizing themselves with the maps and narrative directions.

 Once all the prep is done we will pack our bags and then probably re-pack them about 17 times before making our way to Pietermaritzburg. All that’s left is to say our goodbyes, stop questioning why we are putting ourselves through this torture and remember just how privileged we are to be taking this journey together…. AGAIN!

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