Drawing heavily on the kindness of strangers

A few days ago, I finally plucked up the courage to register for the 94.7. Honestly, I don’t think I can make it, and the only thing that has me motivated right now is the hope that I can raise a significant amount of money for childhood cancer research in South Africa. I’m planning to publicise this as far and wide as possible, and my initial aim is R100 000.

Soooo, the training begins. Since we got back from holiday five days ago, I’ve been on the bike every day, which is momentous for me. I tend to live in my head and “couch potato” would be a more accurate description than “athlete”. The challenge is real, people. The furthest I have ever ridden is 25 km, and that was a week ago. I’m overweight and unfit and when I think about stopping, my legs just cease to go round. And then, strangely, the bike stops. I have dodgy knees and chronic Achilles tendinitis. Self-diagnosed, naturally, and we all know how good paediatric oncologists are at diagnosing sports injuries. All in all, not a good prospect for completing nearly 100 km of hard slog on a hot day in Joburg. Which is why betting on me will be all the more fun.

Today we went to Modderfontein nature reserve tor an adventure and some training. The Ride Free bike park is new to us and we had hopes of a trail which I could cycle twice while the kids did one circuit and then went for milkshakes. Tip for the day, folks – a whining five year old and NO sense of direction are not a good combination if you want to get some miles in. It all started promisingly: we found the place, despite the great big hole on Google maps. We found our friends, FOB (mom) and Bug (six years old). We headed down the trail which was clearly marked. Somewhere along the way, I took charge of the whiny one (my five year old) and all the people with a sense of direction headed off into the distance. Yes, my seven-year-old has more sense of direction in his little finger than I have in my whole body, even with Google maps and the Strava map.

I promptly got us lost, but boy, did we have fun going the wrong way! We saw some zebras (zebras in the city – how cool is that?) and apparently there were some wildebeest, but we missed those.

The terrain is really dry and bleak at this time of year, so I don’t think I’d come back til the summer when things will be a lot greener.

A lovely long trail downhill for about two km. Eventually we got to an intersection and I looked at the direction boards.Nothing made any sense and there was no sign of the beginner trail we were supposed to be one.  It was all intermediate and advanced. 14 km that way and 20 km this way, or something truly unreasonable for a tired, hot five-year-old with half a bottle of water left. I sat down to look at the Strava map, get my bearings, blah blah. I may as well have done backflips singing Yankee-Doodle-Dandy for all the good that did me.

And then the first kind stranger happened along. He pointed me authoritatively in what he thought was the right direction, and instructed the whiny one to enjoy the ride, which had quite a calming effect. The only problem with his instructions was that they involved going back the way we came, and going up the steep slope that had been so awesome coming down, which would mean I would have to confess to the whiny one that we were lost. I could just hear his moans in my head: “Ah, Mom! Not again! You always get us lost!” So I carried on looking hopelessly at the map on my phone until another kind stranger came to a skidding stop to check if we were ok. He had no idea where we should go but headed off without a word up the slope to see if we should go that way. And when he came back, he gave us two jellybabies, which had an energising effect on the whiny one, and also made me remember what a rubbish mother and planner I was. This wasn’t the first time I’d headed off with only a bottle of water into the wilderness (ok, the centre of urban Johannesburg, but still) and gotten us lost. In fact it wasn’t the second time, either. Something tells me I shall have to start packing a little bag with snacks and perhaps a jersey. And maybe think about some kind of pathfinder… I did find one useful sign:


Anyone notice something missing?

The jellybabies did the trick and the whiny one stopped whining, miracle of miracles. We got up the slope and found the place where I’d completely missed the very clear marker. Don’t ask. Four kilometres of windy, downward track and we were back to safety. My better half had also come looking for us, thus racking up a few more kays. See, there is a silver lining 🙂

We would have gotten there eventually and I guess we would have taken the same route, but the kindness of strangers made it so much better. I did feel like a total idiot and a really bad parent, but at least the kid was calm. In the end he did fourteen km, his longest ride so far, and we had fun. I tell myself every little bit counts and training in that nasty heat will be good prep for the November ride. Here’s hoping.