Embarkings & Queens Double Century Race Report With Roy Gordon

During pregnancy and in the first several months post-partum, hormones are released into the brain which cause unexplained happiness as well as forgetfulness. The release of these hormones is an essential adaptive tool which has ensured the survival of our species because without these hormones no woman in their right mind would have a second child.

The same hormones are released during extended endurance exercise and constitute the singular explanation for why we do (and come back to repeat) a 203km team cycling road race lasting anything between 7 and 8 and a half hours in searing heat, sapping us of our energy and oftentimes good humour.

And so at 05h50 on the morning of 25 November 2023, twelve of us set out from Swellendam for the ride of a lifetime. We would return several hours later – changed for sure – but bent rather than broken, drained rather than destroyed and - as we had been throughout the day - as a team.

In truth this is why we do it: because, as fulfilling as individual accomplishment may be, doing something as a team, for a team, is infinitely more rewarding.

Little did we guess, however, that teamwork in the context of our day, meant honing our joint tube changing skills to a fine art and repairing broken bike chains.
Less unexpected, in terms of teamwork, was that the writer would require assistance up the three sisters and on the climb to the finish, and that our captain and leader with his steady hand on the tiller would guide us one and all, and together over the line.

Belgie, Craig and Connor were immense throughout the day and special thanks to Connor, because while we may not have had a roof for our gazebo, we did have all the beats at our pit stops.

They say that couples that train together stay together but any relationship is put under pressure when the chips are down and lover/companions are 180kms into a bike ride facing the three sisters. Our two team couples were kind and understanding with one another throughout the race and I, for one, was gently moved as Gabby helped Anree up the hills and Brad placed his hand ever so sweetly into the small of Shane’s back to get him up the third sister.

Dominique and Julia “fresh” from 70.3 Mossel bay were unbelievable and while Julia remained – typically – bright and sparky throughout, Dom, encountering some dark places (as we all do) was reportedly reduced to monosyllables.
Reportedly, of course, because the writer was significantly further down each of the hills battling his own torments and was in no position – or mood – to take cognisance of anyone’s suffering but his own.

As for Becs – our one and only “Sweetie” – arguably she would have had to dig the deepest of the day, but dig she did, with a smile on her face and several wisecrack jokes. When the tears flowed at the culmination of the day, they were tears earned and tears to be super-proud of.

As for our overall performance, in a cunning attempt to avoid the ignominy of technically losing to Steve’s team, we contrived to send our support driver on the wrong route thereby earning a sneaky DQ. Sadly the DQ has been rescinded and the only consequence that remains is the writer’s – suspectedly now lifelong – indebtedness to his wife, who he threw into the logistical inferno that is support driving, with ill-considered confidence. While the writer’s happy hormones have erased all memory of the day, the same cannot be said for Natalie.

And so – as a group – our joint attention now turns to the Ironman African Championship in Nelson Mandela Bay, where once again we stand poised to do something difficult and exceptional, with the real likelihood of not being able to retain any memory of it.

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