10 life lessons I learnt from a 109 km race

Picking up my race pack at the Expo: Good Hope Center

As with all races, the professionals in the A seeding group have gone, they are likely at the finish line as we novices take-off.

Big speakers house the sound of invigorating music, thousands of roaring fans-families-friends stand on the sides of the starting point-flagging banners painted with multi-colored words of encouragement. The bustling, the coolness of morning, the clicking-clacking of pedals evokes the senses. Group by group, cyclists wheeze their bicycle’s closer and closer to the start line. A shot of adrenaline bursts through my body as the announcer pulls the gun shot for the group ahead to zoom off.

Carbo loaded✔Enough sleep✔Wholesome breakfast✔Race-tec securely placed✔

Start line past civic center, Cape Town-South Africa.

I am milliseconds away from the start line of the World’s Largest Timed Cycling Race. The announcer shouts, “everybody say whoopla” and off -we-go!

In 2015, I enjoyed my third Cape Town Argus cycle tour. It’s a 109km (68 miles) route. This endurance testing, leg packing, wildly thrilling race has taught me several life lessons that I would like to share with you.

1. Do Boundaries:  Prior to the race I was increasingly agitated with time-wasting. I had a clear training schedule and I needed to keep to it. But then again I have friends and a life that generally operates on African time. Announcing my new boundaries felt embarrassing, but I quickly  learnt to do boundaries.

Real-life lesson: I learnt that to do right by others, you have to do right by yourself first. Usually, by achieving a set goal, you are able to add more value to those around you. The question to consider with boundaries is how often you do what’s right for you?

Sometimes, learning to say no to others, is learning to say yes to yourself.


2. Don’t compare yourself: Right at the start of the race, riding up the M3, a gust of 50mph wind pulls me back. I look around. Hundreds of cyclists are moving up the long steady incline with ease on aerodynamic bicycles, wearing professional gear, with thin slick tires built to decrease rolling resistance and to increase speed. I fiddle with my breaks, lowering resistance. The climb, compounded by the wind pulls me down.

I am increasingly aware that I am riding on a recalcitrant mountain bicycle. It’s not built for this task. I begin to see myself as an amateur in a sea of professionals. And just in time, the negative tape plays “you don’t really have to continue, you can just turn back–nobody will know..”

images (2)Real-life lesson: It is tempting to compare yourself with people around you, particularly because the resources that people have vary immensely and people move ahead at different rates. There is no greater distraction than this. The life lesson here is obvious.

Stay in your lane! Stay in your lane! Stay in your lane!

3. Do not easily accept a no: My 2nd cycle tour in 2014 was by far the craziest, most fun experience. Mirroring resilience. I got cut of thrice on this cycle tour, at the 73k, 50k and 36k mark. At each cut-off, we were told to get into the truck.

To be transported with bicycles, clamoring at the back of the bus carriage-seemed like doom to me. I was with four other cyclists at this point. Despite the marshals instruction to join the bus, we bulldozed past security. Finding new gravel roads, riding scurried(ly) on the wheels of limitlessness.

Sticker with cut off times written on the pink blocks.

Reallife lesson: Not every closed door is locked!

4. Accountability is a form of encouragement: When racing to make the next cut-off point I kept thinking “I can’t be found with lame excuses of why I couldn’t finish.” I continually bargained with God “Lord if you carry me to the end, you will receive all the glory for this cycle tour.” How would I explain not having received a medal to my friends-how would I tell Mbesi about this flimsy ending?!

I must-I must-I must get to the end.

Reallife lesson: I genuinely believe accountability is a form of encouragement. Habbakuk 2 verse 2 reads:

“write the vision, and make it plain upon tables.”

The way I see it, your friends and family  can be your tables- when you choose to share your hopes with them. Knowing that someone else knows what you said you would do, fosters accountability.

Do your friends know your goals? Do you have people whom you are receptive to?People who motivate you-reminding you of why you started a task in the first place?

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA –  Photo by Greg Beadle

5.  Do not be afraid to ask for help: The final climb of the cycle tour is Suikerbosse. This hill is 1 km long only. Yet It felt hard, my guts were packed, my shoulders had hunkered from taking beatings from the sun. I distinctly remember calling the little children who were cheering on the side of the road to push me past this final obstacle. Their push was an oasis of strength. Not long to go now-not long to go! From their push-I pushed myself.

Real life lesson: Think of how easily and gladly you offer help when you can? Generally, people are willing to do the same for you. The second part of the earlier verse reads “that he may run (with you) that readeth it (your vision).

I genuinely believe that when people see your goals, there are those who are willing to plug themselves in and run with you, pushing you towards the finish line. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

Above is an image of me with my former Statistics lecturer Tim Louw. At a running race I mentioned to him (in passing) that I was looking for a bicycle to enter the cycle tour, to which he responded, “I have an extra bicycle for you.”

6. Learn to become your biggest cheerleader: As the hill spikes up Edinburgh Drive or Smitswinkel or Chapmans Peak you–feel– the–pinch. When a marshal shouts out the time left before the next cut off point, followed by “you wont make it man,” you quickly realize that you wont always have spectators, encouraging you forward.  It’s then that you must  choose to doubt your doubts.

Continuously looking outwardly to find the motivation you need to move forward will leave you starved, always waiting for someone else to say you can.officeteam-cheers-clipart-1

Being your biggest cheerleader requires you to believe that you can!  Its important to re-affirm that “I can feeling” particularly when it gets difficult. I have often thought that “I owe it to the people who believe in me, to believe in myself.” More recently, this thought has changed to:

I owe it to myself to believe in myself.”

Lest I live a life of regret with thoughts of what I could have and should have done-given the gifts that I have been endowed with.

Reallife lesson: knowing your why, the reason you do what you do, will fan the flame of your gift, ultimately cultivating a strong mindset. In 2011, the oldest cyclist Japie Malan was (91). To take on the challenge and go for the ride, he had to have a why-a guiding reason!

That same year 13-year-old twin brothers Davy and Daryl set the record for being the youngest to complete the race-they too, had a why-a guiding reason!

Reallife application: Speak good over yourself, till you get to the finish line. If you have to say seemingly wild things like, “if Tour de France greats, Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain, and Lance Armstrong completed this race… so can I” then say that. Immerse yourself in words that fill your heart with faith.

I mean, look at  Muhammad Ali, long before he knew it, he said to himself: “I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round.”

Learn to become your biggest cheerleader

7. Usually, you are stronger than you think: In 2015, the 109 km race was dramatically cut down to a mere 47 km’s. The fires that raged across the Southern Peninsula meant that the safety of cyclists could not be guaranteed. For someone who had completed four 100 km races before, this should have been a breeze…

Did it end quicker? Yes!

Was it easier? Certainly not! It was the hardest 47 km.

Interestingly, If the race happened to be 109 km’s that morning, I certainly would have pushed to the finish line.

 Reallife lesson: From my perspective, this shows that when one is in a challenge, the courage and strength to take it on– arises–in time. When you have a deadline-suddenly you are more productive.

Strength prevails in the moments when we need strength.

Perhaps, we are more able than what we allow ourselves to be and believe!

8. When you want to do something (decisively), you usually find a way: The race is limited to 42500 entrants. Each year the entry tickets sell out within 5 days or 8 hours of being released. Which means…dololono tickets!

Most people leave it at that, but where there is a will there is a way. Gum-tree purchases, Facebook update searches, a friend of a friend who knows a friend who will no longer partake.

You do what you have to do to find the ticket. I would not want this idea to be misconstrued to the neo-liberal prism of “if you push yourself hard enough then ….” Instead, this lesson is directed at your day to day pursuits.

 Reallife lesson: Think of the last time you really-really-really wanted something.

You probably put your back into it and made it happen!


9. Be present to enjoy the journey: Apart from the sportive, this race is a bucket list event for people across the world because of it’s landscape. From the traverse of Misty Cliffs to the curvy descent to Scarborough, to feeling the gentle cooling breeze on your left from the Atlantic. To passing through Kalk Bay’s seaside, then downhill past Ocean View leading towards Noerdhoook. The views are breathtakingly beautiful.

However, when bent in, clutching onto handlebars, with feet in the stirrups, thinking about the looming  cut off times–you can quickly forget to stop and capture moments. L-I-F-E!  

Real-life lesson: On the nice down hills, and sometimes on the horrid uphills there is beauty.

Choosing to be engaged, paying attention, appreciating your surroundings, making meaningful connections. Recognizing the invisible discouragement that wars on the hearts of those around you.

This can only happen when you are present “right now.” I know it sounds cliché, but when you forget to smell the roses, you miss out on holy moments, the electric, life-giving moments which happen in the now.

Real-life application: Sometimes, switch your phone off when in conversation, listen attentively. Offer your presence as a gift to the lives of the people your life intersects.

10. You decide how to perceive feedback: After bulldozing past three cut-off points, I reached the end as the last rider in, a minute before the 7 hours cut off time.

By then my body was consumed by spiking adrenaline from the final stretch. My lungs felt wrangled and my throat was parched.

I could have been bummed that I was the last rider. But goodness how giddy I was. I reached the finish line, flaring my arms in the air, screeching “God we made it!” I received my medal! Victory!

下载 (3)
from cyclethecape2014 blog

To me, It was enough to have experienced moments of ecstasy on two wheels. ”

The question to consider here is: So what?! So what if you fail…you learnt?! So what if you are last…you finished?! ” Just do it..✔” and when you have tried, recognize your efforts!


Read more here: at http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/routes/overseas/cyclo-sportive-cape-argus-pick-n-pay-cycle-tour-92513#Ur4g1Z0FpCRtguu8.99



2 thoughts on “10 life lessons I learnt from a 109 km race

    1. My dear friend. Before every big race i.e. Argus I think ‘hey you really need to get youeself a peanut brittle” I don’t know if you remember but for my first Argus you brought me that lovely Goodluck care package and it had a peanut butter brittle. I could never forget the beautiful thoughtfulness of that gesture! I’m looking forward to a time where i can deliver a night before the big race package for you. It will be so lovely! ❤ Everybody say whooopla!


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