Race Across South Africa: the chronicles of Alex Harris

If you’re ever feeling up for a challenge you should consider riding the Race Across South Africa. It’s a 2300km unsupported individual MTB race along the Freedom Trail. 50 riders set out from Pietermaritzburg and they have 26 days to reach Diemersfontein in Wellington. To finish in that time you have to average about 100km a day.

Easy right?

Besides the sheer magnitude of the event, notoriously known as SA toughest race, the other thing that makes it special is that it was broadcast exclusively over Twitter this year.

Deprived of the TV coverage associated with some of the bigger and MUCH shorter stage races, watching the RASA through the lens of community was awesome. I love twitter for that.

My favourite rider is Alexander Harris. He won in 2010 and set a new course record in 2011. This year he finished second, 5 hours behind the Dusi Duke, endurance expert Martin Dreyer, in 10 days.

10 days to cover 2300km! Wow!

This morning Harris took to twitter as he chronicled the highs and lows of his mammoth ride. I simply cannot believe he endured it all. His story is great. It reads like a veritable short form of The Lord of the Rings. Really, it does.

Here are his tweets in order:

@alexanderharris: Day 1. Rode to Ntsikeni (207kms). Near Boshelweni, broke a saddle bolt. Seeds sewn for trouble later and a sore rump! Got in at 10pm.

@alexanderharris: Also shredded my ear on Wag n bietjie bos in the Umkomaas. But altogether a good first day!

@alexanderharris: Day 2. Broke a 2nd bolt leaving Nsikeni (thought it was bad luck). Stopped at Glen Edward to fix. Martin sneaks past. Push on to Tinana.

@alexanderharris: Day 3. Loose 30mins in giant martian donga outside Tinana. Unbeknownst to me, my saddle clamp continues to grind its ratchets..trouble later

@alexanderharris: Cross Lehanas and surprisingly, get first Uruk Hai assault. Take power nap in storm water drain. Perfect fit…as long as it doesnt rain!

@alexanderharris: Roll into Rhodes about 2 hrs behind Martin. Push on to Chesney wold as the rain arrives and the roads turn into Mississippi mud fudge!

@alexanderharris: So far 3 days down and still on track for the original plan. a sub 11 day. But this all changes today as the mud takes over.

@alexanderharris: Day 4. Limp over Kappokraal, slaapkrantz and Bonthoek portages with crazy mud! Brosterlea no longer an option. Stop at Vaalbank soaked!

@alexanderharris: Day 5. Break a third bolt 30 mins out of Vaalbank. Then a 4th crossing the vlei. Walk 10kms across vlei contemplating the problem…

@alexanderharris: Finally understand the nature of problem. The rachets on my seat clap have worn out, thus unable to lock off bolt, thus torque shears bolt

@alexanderharris: limp on with cable ties and rope attaching saddle. these wear so eventually use bloudraad. Make it to Brosterlea in 8hrs!!!

@alexanderharris: Push on to Romansfontein and a waiting seat post. Break a 5th and final bolt but eventually get in. loose about 8hrs to Martin. bleak day!

@alexanderharris: Day 6. Invigorated that i have finally solved the problem. Go like mad with good weather and trail and make it to Grootdam, 255kms later

@alexanderharris: Day 7. Pull back 3 hrs on Martin. Conditions still superb. Another big day to Bucklands. 200+. Realise i have a chance of doing a sub 11

@alexanderharris: Day 8. Drop into Mordor in the day. feeling bold and try a sneak. 2 electric fence shocks later and 30 bee stings to the head and face..pow!

@alexanderharris: Roll into Cambria with face swollen and head pounding. sulk for about 45mins as i recover. now about 3hrs behind. Push on but lethargic…

@alexanderharris: Come down a hill in Baviaans in the fading light and split a heard of Buffalo in two! feeling lucky…push on slowly to Dam se Drif.

@alexanderharris: Day 9. Another big day Jonny. Push all the way to Prince Albert, 258kms. Experince a charge down by two Brown Hyena entranced by my light!

@alexanderharris: Day 10. After 2 hrs sleep at PA, move up Swartberg pass and into Gamkaskloof. Out the back and into Rouxpos for lunch. 4 hrs behind

@alexanderharris: Roll into Anysberg around 9pm. Sleep deprivation is now drastic. Multiple power naps follow as i push on to Montagu. Hallucinating …

@alexanderharris: Keep hearing the faintist music on the wind and in the air. Looking back all the time at my *partner*. The Uruk Hai come now, with no mercy!

@alexanderharris: Fall asleep on my bike coming down the steep Ouberg pass. The Lord protects me and the bike goes right into the cliff and not left off it!

@alexanderharris: Fall asleep on my bike coming down the steep Ouberg pass. The Lord protects me and the bike goes right into the cliff and not left off it!

@alexanderharris: Wake in a mangled pile in the rocky gutter. Bruised, angry but alive and thankful to Jesus! Grace as always! Stumble and dither into montagu

@alexanderharris: Day 11. Sub 11 is still on but need to push. martin about 3.5hrs up the road. Shapes in the darkness shift and plants become people

@alexanderharris: Crossing Ashton a dog bites me on the calf but too tired to care. something comes out but not a shout. Making good time though…

@alexanderharris: Miss the obvious sneak into Magregor and give up the 30 mins i had just made up, and possibly the last chance of catching Martin. Angry!

@alexanderharris: Arrive at Kasra some time around 12. See the gap to Martin is still around 3.5. Now its down to Stettyns. light for Martin, dark for me…

@alexanderharris: Trouthaven at 8.30pm. No chance to catch Martin now, so pushing everything to the sub 11. Have 3 extra hours in the bag i figure…

@alexanderharris: At the dam wall by 9.45pm, and soon thereafter in the infamous Stettyns kloof. the only FC test i havnt taken Steyttyns in the dark!

@alexanderharris: Hugely underestimate the complexity of a dark Stettyns. Takes another hour to the first river crossing. tear, rip, shred and stumble along..

@alexanderharris: Shins smacked to pieces but body has been comitted along time ago. Stettyns is like a puzzle, the mines of moria in the dark!

@alexanderharris: Constantly loosing the ‘track’ and praying to the Lord for signs. A rock pile here, torn tape there, even a scant path, one clue to another

@alexanderharris: Finally i make the climb out point and celebrate. my self-talk has taken on a whole new dimension. its us, all the time now, me and whoever

@alexanderharris: But ive killed all my spare time. Its 3am and the wind is pounding. A new cold front has smacked the cape and think mist covers DuToits koof

@alexanderharris: my sub 11 cut off is 6am. Ive 3 hrs left. I struggle in the dark to find the Elandspad trail. At last, im pushing along it as its too rocky

@alexanderharris: 1.5hrs later im on the N1 near the tunnel. I start the 7km climb up toward the pass. Wind is gusting. when its in the face, it stops me dead

@alexanderharris: Out of the saddle and my legs are screaming. Tendons long ripped out of the back of my patella, quads have gotten to know a meat tenderiser!

@alexanderharris: I have to give myself at least 30mins for the drop to the finish. Its complex forrest trails and links. So i grind, cursing at the wind

@alexanderharris: Finally im at the summit and its 5.30. Thick mist make it impossible to see more than 2ms. I mess aorund for 5 mins searching for the sneak

@alexanderharris: I celebrate as i find it and say a quick prayer that the Lord guides me. I know i have one shot at this, one only. One mistake and its over

@alexanderharris: I drop down the first forest road. Highly attuned at the drift and feel of the forest, listening to the Holy spirit. Right at the 1st fork..

@alexanderharris: 20mins…left at the 2nd, then its a right, and a right again. Out of the mist now. 15 mins. Straight, straight, then another right…

@alexanderharris: 10 mins. Surprised, as always, that this section is so long. Endless turns and twists, but the Lords guidence is true. I know im right…

@alexanderharris: Im now in the back of Diemersfontein and in the big blade. Good thing i put a 44 on and not the 42! who would have thought i would need it..

@alexanderharris: 5mins and i must be pacing at 50kms/hr along the paved road around the dam. I can see the lights. Legs are screaming in an alien language

@alexanderharris: vague glance at my watch and i know its going to be close…minutes in it. Two more bends. Slight uphhill, out of the saddle again…

@alexanderharris: im not going to give it up now, not now. i know its just a number. but hell, ive worked hard for that number! I turn the final bend…

@alexanderharris: Body and mind are in a strange new place. A magical place where long journeys instantly end and begin. Memories rush and flood the mind…

@alexanderharris: I cross the line and stop. I look at my watch. 10 days 23 hrs and 57 mins!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

One response to “Race Across South Africa: the chronicles of Alex Harris”

  1. Welsh D says:

    This is breath-taking – thanks to twitter. Man you are something else. All the best hey!

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