“Mr Twice, let’s go fetch my cycling jacket first then we can set up the hand-cycle and we need to find the start of the race, I can’t paddle from here the grass is high and I might get another puncture”, I say to Mr Twice as he marvels at the number of cyclists at the venue.
We left Johannesburg at 5am to get to my first of five races before my cycling year ends. The last time I took part in the Meals on Wheels Cycle Challenge, it was 2015, and it was few months after I had become a paraplegic.
“I can remember how I cried going downhill and kept squeezing the brakes.” – SA cycling heroine, Palesa Deejay Manaleng
I would pick up speed on a downhill and immediately my brain would scream you are going to crash, again. My brain was referring to my cycling accident when the brakes of my bicycle failed while going downhill at full speed.
In this particular race back in 2015, I had my first anxiety attack – it was so bad I don’t remember finishing the race!
This year when I rode, I had no fear of my brakes failing or my bike flipping.
“My only worry was finishing and setting a good time for myself.” – Palesa Deejay Manaleng
I had to finish this race, I had been working hard with my coach, Boetie Lourens every morning, cycling around Johannesburg. And with Dennis at the UJ gym every other afternoon.
But there is a difference between cycling in-between traffic being forced to stop when a taxi overtakes, only to stop in front of you, or when a bus overtakes a car in a careless way.
“The difference is that during a cycling challenge the road is yours, you push to your full potential, until you break.” – Manaleng
Once you are broken it’s up to you whether you continue to ride or not, that’s when your mental fitness is really tested.
I had been worried that the change in my work schedule and running from classes to training in-between would mean I would fail myself.
But the longer I rode, the calmer I became and for a good 60km all I heard was my Coach’s voice in my head, as I hummed the fighter by Gym Class Heroes.
“After a while I heard nothing but the beating of my heart, I didn’t even realize that I had blisters on my hands until I had finished the race and collected my trophy.” – Manaleng
This race and the Amashova have been on my mind since 2015, I haven’t had an opportunity to take part in them since 2015, and it worried me that I had unfinished business.
This year I chose 10 races but could only get transport to five, so I made sure of those five, I would cycle the two races I couldn’t finish in 2015, being the Amashova and Meals on Wheels.
And the 94.7 – which I finished in 2015 but was carried out in an ambulance in 2017, due to a shoulder injury. With everything that has happened this year I’m determined to finish the year with five major races under my belt before I rest.
Because, come January 2019, all I want to think about is national championships, and fighting for a spot in the team, I’m ready for my colours.