Mark My Words
WORDS - Mark Shinn
INTRO - We give him his own column and he starts writing about bikes. Shinny has been mainly getting saddle sore in Cape Town since he last sat down to press enough buttons to fill this page
It’s not that I don’t find enough fulfilment from kiteboarding, but sometimes I do need to get away from it all and, to this end, I started to ride a bike. Biking is a curious sport with many facets, but the combination of exercise and enjoyment is not a bad one. I’m not particularly fussy about what kind of bike I ride and dabble in road riding, time trial riding, mountain biking and downhill riding. I can imagine a select few of you are passing comments already about skin-tight Lycra and shaved legs, but I shall let that go for now. Lycra is as compulsory to a biker as neoprene is to a kiter. Necessary evils and all that. As for shaved legs, well that’s something else, but let’s not get into that here!
Anyhow, being somewhat prone to challenge (and I’ll even admit to being perhaps just a little bit competitive in nature) I decided I wouldn’t mind entering some sort of event. I’m not 18-years-old anymore and my bones take a little time to heal these days, so downhill racing was out, road racing is cool but generally only lasts a single day (unless you are a pro), so it had to be a mountain bike event. But not just any event; it had to be hard enough to be an achievement just to finish it and it had to be something special. Well, I found it and duly entered the ABSA Cape Epic Mountain Bike race. The course is 722 kilometres long (95% of it off road), involving 14,350 metres of vertical ascent (that’s twice Everest to put it in perspective) and is spread over eight days. Competitors race in teams of two and must remain within a minute of each other at all times during the race. 1200 riders line up at the start every year, ranging from multiple Olympic medal winners and World Cup champions, right through to serial 'completors', whose sole intention is to reach the finish line, however long it takes. Set in the surroundings of Cape Town, South Africa, I found a likely suspect to join me and went about training, eventually standing there on the start line on 20th March wondering if it was such a good idea after all.
At this point I should mention just how odd it felt to be in Cape Town without kiteboarding equipment. CT is one of my favourite kiting destinations - the conditions are fantastic and the lifestyle is very relaxing. It’s no wonder that so many of the world's best kiters come here in the off season to train. Arriving two days before the start there was no time to get in the water before the race and, for the two days after that I was still in CT, I did go to Big Bay to watch the action but was more interested in sitting in a chair, drinking coffee and sleeping than doing any kind of physical activity whatsoever!
We completed the race in a respectable 42 hours and 40 minutes, averaging somewhere between five and six hours riding a day. Just crossing the finish line was an achievement in itself, and to finish 130th from 600 teams was better than we dared hope for stood on the start line. It’s not an experience I shall be repeating every year but I am certainly very content to have done it.
You might wonder exactly why I am writing all this here in a kiteboarding magazine, and you’d have a good point, however:
1. (As I’ve no doubt mentioned before) my name is at the top of the page and I can write about whatever I so choose, and;
2. While discussing the contents of this month's ramblings with your editor he suggested I might have some fantastic inspiration for motivational improvements and have some life changing moments to write about.
So here is what I learnt:
• You won’t get to the finish if you stop pedalling
• Six hours a day in the saddle makes your arse hurt
• It’s bloody hot in South Africa
Not exactly life changing or inspirational, but I’m not sure where the time went to be honest. Each day the riding finished almost as soon as it had started it seemed, and then the eating and sleeping began. I don’t think there are any magical moments to be had. You train and work for what you want and, if you trained and worked hard enough, you should be able to achieve it (assuming you were reasonable in your expectations).
So maybe I did learn something after all, and it’s not a big leap to apply it to kiteboarding. There is no magic ingredient; it’s all down to hard work. At every spot there is a local hero who seems to have the best style and the best tricks. If every time I heard the expression 'The next Aaron Hadlow' I sponsored a rider, I would have a very, very large team indeed. So what makes the difference between a gifted amateur and successful pro? Hard work and dedication; that’s all. It’s no accident that the best riders train the most.
Kiteboarding’s not all about pro riders though and the same patterns apply to you. Yes, I mean you! Do you have a nemesis (and no, I don’t mean the kite from a certain popular brand). Is there a trick you want to learn and have had hanging over you for a long time? Well, guess what: talking about it and thinking about it won’t make it happen. Try it, train on it, learn from your mistakes and you will eventually master it. Drink beers and talk about it and I dare say that you won’t ever get closer to landing it than you are today. It’s now spring here, and for most of us that means that the kiteboarding season has just begun again and you should be feeling full of motivation and enthusiasm so get on with it. Set your goals, work towards them and don’t fall into the trap of complaining that you never learn anything new whilst not even attempting anything new.
That’s about as motivational as I get. If you're still not keen to learn new things with your kite then I suggest you buy a bike and try to cycle it round South Africa for eight days in March. At the very least you’ll get a sun tan, a sore arse and a whole lot of good stories to tell!
Find more on Mark and his boards at: www.shinnworld.com
This column is in issue #45