120 Days and it is over, just like that. We cycled the continent of Africa! How do you sum up the most challenging experience of your life on one short blog? Well, let’s try….
We arrived in Cape Town to a large cheering crowd on Saturday May 10th and it was completely overwhelming. We didn’t expect such a welcome party.
A pavilion was set up at the waterfront filled with friends, family, fans, curious shoppers and people in the surrounding cafés taking notice. Our country flags were on display held by local children and a vibrant band played us in.
The fanfare was second to none!
As race leader, I led the group in with the men’s leader. Immediately after crossing the finish line, I was interviewed by South African Television and actually had tears in my eyes when they asked me how I feel.
Luckily, I kept it together and Vicki would be proud to know that I mentioned Plan and Our Website-all that media training paid off!
CBC Radio interviewed both Dave and I.
Photographers snapped our picture and we schmoozed with our Canadian Ambassador Chris Brown. It was quite an amazing experience.
After a short reception where we drank coffee to warm our chilled bodies after a 110 km ride in the mist and wind. Not much time to waste though, we were quickly off to the Amphitheatre for the awards presentation.
Dave received his EFI Medal and I received my award for Race Winner.
It wasn’t until the dinner and a more formal reception that evening that I received my incredible trophy.
A beautiful traditional mask mounted with a 1st place plaque and some lovely paintings by a local artist for my Section Wins. It was an awesome evening with great food and company. After all of the formalities, we ripped it up on the dance floor until all hours of the evening and paid for it the next day lounging in our hotel room watching movies.
I have to say that we are so happy that we did the Tour d’Afrique. Yes, I complained a lot. I laughed, I cried, I kicked and screamed, but like anytime one pushes themselves to their limit, it is never easy while living it, but always special once it is over.
To think about what we accomplished, it is quite unbelievable. Dave rode every single day through illness, a sprained ankle that he kept re-twisting during the first month, exhaustion, and of course saddle sores.
I survived a serious infection and managed to come back when I was sure that my riding days were over.
I could never have finished this race without Dave. So many times I wanted to go home, throw in the towel and call it a day. But Dave kept me strong and because of him, I achieved my goal.
Together as a Couple
As a couple, this was an amazing achievement. Yes we fought, we laughed about fighting and we bonded more than ever. It strengthened our relationship and we have never been so proud of each other.
We were so lucky to have one another to share our fears and frustrations of the day as well as our triumphs and victories without worrying about how they will perceive us.
Dave and I can tell each other anything.
I am going off course now, Dave is making a coffee and I need to brag.
I am so proud of his performance in the TDA. He made it look easy and pulled me through each day. I received most of the attention at the receptions, but if everyone should know how strong he is.
He came into this as a non-racer and recreational rider. By the end, he was racing in the peloton, doing a great showing in time trials, losing almost 40 pounds and reshaping the muscles on his legs. Incredible!
The night before we rode into Cape Town, they gave away fun awards.
As most of you who know me, I naturally won the biggest Drama Queen;) I felt that Dave should have won most improved rider and most weight loss, but they didn’t put those categories in. Oh well, I will give him a special award.
Completing the Tour d’Afrique
After completing the Tour d’Afrique, I feel like I can accomplish anything.
I know that it sounds cliché, but this really was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life.
Waking up at 5:00 in the morning, rain or shine, hot or cold. Sleeping through blowing sandstorms and heavy downpours, Huddling through freezing nights to boiling in hot humid weather. We really went through every condition and survived every element and it only made us stronger.
So many days I felt like it was too much, but once I arrived in camp all was forgotten. Now that we have finished, the sense of accomplishment is unbelievable. A year ago, we were happy to ride 20km after work. Now Dave can ride 100km in less than 3 hours and I am not too far behind.
A 207km is pretty achievable if not downright easy except for the monotony of riding for so long.
And reaching over 70km going downhill is a lot of fun. I used to brake when I reached 30km at home now I am riding as hard and fast as I can to make better time.
I have often read of people saying that after achieving an extraordinary physical challenge, they feel that they can now do anything. I never understood what they were talking about until now.
This was hard, every day; it was hard. And every day, we got up and finished, so to get up and do anything in our lives in the future, should be quite easy by comparison.
One thing I must say is that if anyone is wanting to do the TDA you must be prepared for the most gruelling and truest test of not only your physical strength but mental as well.
We learned, as everyone else did, that there really is no way to train for this. Even people who tried to put in the kms before they came soon found out that it was no prep for the days ahead.
As we pack our bikes back into their boxes and take stock of what things we have left over, it is hard not to look back on certain experiences of the last 4 months.
The people we have spent so much time within our mobile village are now starting to head home to resume their lives and hopefully take something away from this as we have.
There are people who we will keep in touch with and ones we won’t. But when we talk about this adventure their faces will be forever associated with the stories we tell.
Some say we are crazy, some say we are not but, if we are crazy, we are safe in knowing that we are not the only ones as there are 60 other crazies that thought subjecting yourself to traveling Africa by bicycle would be a fun thing to do.