Archive for March, 2010

Riding the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour on a scooter

I completed my fourth Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour on Sunday (14 March). I rode a PB (personal best) and felt strong at the end but no medal for my efforts. Just regular taunts of “you’re cheating” on route and then a final insult when I wasn’t allowed to cross the finish line. No glory for me, instead I was ushered into a side road for motorised vehicles. I didn’t take it too personally but it might have something to do with my first Cycle Tour a few years back when I raced some back markers to the finish, almost falling off my scooter as I raised my hands and crossed the finish line just in front of them, poring scorn and exhaust fumes on them in the process.

Start of the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour

Start of the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour

O.k, so I was on my scooter, my trusty Vuka 110, doing its fourth tour and still going strong.  Scooters and motorbikes don’t get to cross the finish line and the cries of cheat are good natured but as much as the idea of cycling 110km with 35 000 other cyclists doesn’t appeal to me, this is a special event and I think it might be fun to do a slow cycle around the peninsula, it is a stunning route after all. This is the one day of the year that cyclists rule the roads in Cape Town and get to circumnavigate the entire peninsula without having to dodge cars, busses and manic taxi drivers. All they need to worry about is one dodgy photographer on a scooter.

I might not have cycled the route but I still completed it, stopping every few minutes to take pics of the branding for the organisers. And despite my efforts and managing to stay upright the entire route, not easy when surrounded by a bunch of wobbly cyclists, I still didn’t get to finish with respect, no they leave that to the cyclists.

Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour

Lance Armstrong being interviewed by Phill Liggett

I had left home at about 5.30am hoping for two things; a wind free ride and some pics of Lance Armstrong, who would be riding his first tour. My wobbly ride to the start put paid to the wind free idea but getting some pics of Armstrong proved relatively easy despite the “media frenzy” that surrounded him. Imagine the world’s biggest cycling superstar at the world’s largest cycle race and you get the picture, or at least I did.

Once the leading group had gone off I spent the next couple of hours (I can only enter the route after 8am) taking pics of the start and searching desperately for the Pick n Pay tent which in earlier years provided an early morning snack and juice for hungry cyclists and photographers. But the wind, or the recession, put paid to that. The wind also put paid to most of the branding that usually decorates the start area. The consoling factor for most, especially those who rode last year’s tour was that compared to the gale force winds of 2009 this year’s southeaster seemed like a breeze.

I finally hit the route and played chicken with the south easter every time I got off to take a photograph. The spectators weren’t daunted by the south ester, hardy folk the Capetonians who come out each year to support and the thousands of friends and family who traveled down south to cheer on their kids, moms, dads, sisters, brothers, lovers and others. Most set up camp on route, be it on couches, the back of a bakkie, in a beer tent, a trailer or deck chair, they get comfortable and make a day of it. They’re out there stocked up with a days worth of picnicking and they essentially make the event what it is,  35 000 cyclists cycling 110km around the Cape Peninsula, and thousands more showing their appreciation and having fun at the same time.

I particularly enjoyed the Kalk Bay Main Road, which was closed to most traffic. Cyclists went over Boyes Drive while I was diverted to the Main Road. The kids had taken over with their skateboards, bikes and roller blades reminding me of Israel on the their day of atonement, when most Israelis stay off the usually manic streets, leaving it clear for the kids to take over with their unmotorised means of transport.

Baboon near Cape Point

Baboon crossing - near Cape Point

Back to the route and besides dodging a baboon nonchalantly crossing the road near Cape Point I enjoyed a leisurely ride to the finish, stopping regularly to photograph, snack on bananas and Barones offered to the cyclists and enjoy the views which I never tire of.

Maybe I’ll dust off my bike next year.

Getting high Cape Town style: Bat Run 2010

For my first Bat Run in 2003, I roped in two novice trail runners to run with me, one a fit hiker, the other a decent 10km runner, who had never been up Platteklip Gorge before. The fourth member of our team was Moonshine, Anthony’s Border Collie, who found the distance a bit short and her companions a bit slow, but the mountains she loved. This annual night run, run in February as close to full moon as possible, takes in Cape Town’s Three Peaks, Devil’s Peak, Maclear’s Beacon, via Platteklip Gorge, and Lion’s Head.

I remember back then reaching a cold and misty Maclear’s Beacon just after 1am. We were the lonely back markers slowly approaching what looked like a deserted beacon when a ghostly figure stepped out of the mist to great us. Stephan Moser, the hardy check point guy had waited for us, He still had drinks and snacks to offer and at least now he could leave his shivering check point, the highest point on Table Mountain.

Having tagged the second peak so could we. We eventually reached Kloof Nek, where only after a double massage by two young ladies, was Douglas persuaded to complete the last peak. We finished at 4.07am to a still and warm Kloof Nek and an enthusiastic but small group of organisers and late finishers still hanging around waiting for us back markers.

Seven years later and not much has changed. Sure there are now 100 odd runners compared to about 40 back then,  I’ve completed a number of bat runs and seconded at Maclears Beacon and on one very stormy occasion, stood check point with Brian Key on Devil’s Peak, but I am still at the back of the pack and still finishing after 4.00am.

I hadn’t entered this year’s event and thought the most I might do is one peak as a checkpoint but co organiser, Sonia Beard had other ideas. With her sweep having pulled out injured, she bribed me with promises of T-shirts, cold beers and escorting single women in the early hours of the morning to be the sweep. I told her to keep the T-shirt I’m in. Having sent off my acquiescence in some haste, I suddenly thought does this mean I need to do the whole route? “Yes!” came back the firm answer.

Cool I’m in, I’m not that fit at the moment but a slow run at the back of the pack on a hopefully beautiful Cape Town evening was starting to sound pretty attractive. And that’s how I found myself at the back of the back on a stunning Cape Town night running (well walking mostly) this year’s Bat Run. What a treat.

Peak 1, Devils Peak was warm and windy and the runners still in jovial spirits. Peak 2; and the route up Platteklip was made easier by focusing on the floating headlamps high up in the gorge snaking their way mostly down (and a few up) the mountain. The top of the mountain was an oasis of calm, a clear evening with the city lights ever present in their brilliance and the almost full moon lighting the way so headlamps weren’t needed. We arrived at Maclear’s Beacon and Stephan was there waiting patiently for the back markers, and once again I could tell him we were the last and he could go home, although on such a perfect evening, particularly on top, he didn’t look that keen to leave.

By now the winners, who had blurred by much earlier were finished with Jayde Butler picking up victory in record time with a ridiculous 3.42. It wasn’t that long ago, on Jayde’s first attempt at the Bat Run that I bumped into him on his way to Maclear’s Beacon and gave him some muti to help his cramp. The Butler bunny has come on in the proverbial leaps and bounds and is going to be a serious force to be reckoned with on the local trail running scene.

Back to the tortoises, we finally made it down to Kloof Nek, where the early finishers were having a bit of a party. But for us, Anja my running buddy at the back and me, it was up Lion’s Head, dodging scorpions and runners hurrying down to the finish. We finished at 4.03am, with a couple of runners we collected on the way and just Ashleigh and Greg behind us making their way slowly down.

The promised cold beers duly materialized and although the masses had scattered, the few late finishers and die hard organisers (“we always wait for the last to arrive”) were still around for an early morning drink.

Thanks to the organisers; Andrea Pullfrich, John and Sonja Damata, Sonia Beard and others at the checkpoints (Leo and friends on Devil’s and Stephan at Maclears) as well as the friendly and supporting faces at the seconding tables. And thanks Sonia for the late “invite” and opportunity to do this classic event again.