My Cape Epic Whirlwind Experience - Chris Viljoen

So where to start. I have a good friend with whom I have ridden multiple races over the years. About 4 weeks before the 2017 Cape Epic he asked me to ride with him as his partner could not. Very short notice, a mixture of euphoria, fear and anxiety all at the same time. I had already done 3, so I knew what was install for me. But an incredible amount of preparation which needed to happen very quickly. Strangely the most stressing issue was the kit order as teams are required to wear matching clothing. Never mind how do you prepare physically for this challenge in 4 weeks.
Well, that’s why I have someone to do that planning for me. Lucky for me I had carried quite a huge block of training through from the DC, Desert Dash, Attakwas and Tankwa Trek. But still, my faithful, knowledgeable, equally surprised coach had to race prep me. My partner was a top 150 finisher, this was going to be a big ask. The program arrived, my jaw dropped. So many 4am wake up calls, 3 hour sets during week days. I was trawling through the program for my rest days, they were almost non-existent, the crazy voices in my head kept repeating “My coach will kill me before the Epic does”. Trust your coach, the one golden rule I have learnt. He has never let down.
The race prep went well, a couple of painful tears shed along the cold, lonely roads. But as far as damage control went, pretty awesome. We had our start time, just after the pro ladies and just before the pro men. What were these organizers thinking?

Friday before the race my wife surprised us, she always bakes a race cake, it has become tradition, she did not disappoint. Our last evening of normality together before the crazy days take over. My partner came for a visit, he brought the kit which had been sitting in customs for almost 2 weeks. We had been stressing for days trying to get that kit from customs. The plans that were hatched were desperate. But the last piece of the puzzle fell into place. Nothing more to be done, now just to enjoy the moment. And the cake of course.

Saturday was race registration day. That’s when reality kicks your butt, the butterflies awaken, and things start to sink in. The Waterfront is abuzz, there are 1400, wait 1399 fellow riders all experiencing some crazy emotions. Registration done, back home to prep the bike, stickers, number boards, pack your race issued bag. Which is the size of a lunch box! What are these people thinking? Sleeping bag, pillow, 3 full kits, clothing, etc. How does that all fit into one tiny bag? Solution, my faithful wife will bring what is necessary for each race day.

Day done, off to bed, very little sleep. Sunday comes, long story short, 10:57:30 you are in the start chute. The start of an amazing event. The support crew were out in droves. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were hot, 46 degrees average, Tuesday was 53 degrees. Over 160 riders fell out in the first 2 days. I almost never made it, over hydration was a terrible experience of black spots and hallucinations. But my partner dragged me in. By Wednesday I had recovered, my Epic legs returned, we made up around 160 places by the end of the race. Oak Valley was a complete opposite in terms of temperature. The mornings were zero degrees. Freezing cold starts, hot finishes. Strong headwinds.

Riding into Val de Vie was a mixed bag of emotions. Another Epic finished, absolutely no mechanicals, we did well for a short notice combination. It was an emotional finish for me. The first my mom was not there to see, she passed away September, but I do believe she watched over me the whole race. All in all, a fantastic experience. Things could not have gone better. Thanks to all for the help, well wishes and support throughout the race. And my faithful posse, Lizette, Jen, Eveline, and in-laws.

And Kent, I promise to give you more prep time should number five come along.

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