Excitement is Building!

After having my bike professionally fitted (it took two hours!,) and some basic lessons in bike repair, by the fine people at Alter Ego Sports, I finally feel confident about my decision! AND, with my to do list dwindling and drastic improvements in my fitness level at spin class, I can now channel my energy into getting excited for this crazy trip! So here are some of the aspects I am most looking forward to:

  • meeting interesting people
  • having the opportunity to interact with so many different cultures along the route
  • challenging my physical and mental limits like never before
  • brushing up on my Egyptian history
  • Sudan and its people
  • a safari in Tanzania
  • the photo ops in Ethiopia and Namibia
  • tropical fish of Lake Malawi (I hope I actually see some!)
  • some kind of adventure at Victoria Falls (I’m thinking bungee?)
  • the Okavango Delta in Botswana (thanks to David Attenborough I’ve been pretty obsessed with this place for the past couple years)
  • visiting wineries in South Africa
  • cycling through not one, but two real deserts
  • cycling up and down mountains for the first time in my life
  • avoiding the real world while immersing myself in what is perhaps a real-er one
  • camping under some crazy starry skies
  • seeing just how bad my tan lines can get
  • listening to every song on my iPhone
  • reading many of the great books I downloaded
  • and last but not least, finishing!
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The Mental Challenge

I’ve been feeling pretty anxious lately about the obstacles I may, no, WILL, face on this tour. Oddly enough, I’ve accepted the major risks inherent to traveling by bike in Africa (risk of collision, malaria, heat stroke, theft etc, I’ll leave these worries for my family). Instead, it’s the not so obvious scenarios that I’m worrying about:
(in order of anxiety induced)

 

  • pain, particularly in my neck, but also in my knees. Both have been problem areas in the past, and without opportunities for adequate rest, I know these could turn into major energy and confidence drains once aggravated. My only hope is that popping pills (I usually avoid painkillers unless absolutely necessary) and stretching will be enough
  • cold weather. Yes I’m from Winnipeg and yes I’ll be in Africa, but I’m one of those people whose feet and fingers go numb when it is 19•C. It takes a lot of warmth – space heater, down comforter and boyfriend’s body heat – for me to shake the discomfort of a cold night, none of which will be available in my tent when the temperatures drop at night and at altitude.
  • I can handle mosquitos and other flying objects, but the thought of crawly nasty bugs invading my sleeping quarters is unnerving
  • I’m grossly underprepared for this tour in terms of mechanical skills, endurance training, and bum conditioning. I just hope I’m not the only one.
  • equipment malfunction. Highly technical gear will be nearly impossible to replace once en route, and pretty much everything I am bringing, from tent to shoes will be needed on a daily basis.
  • finally, I’m worried about my health, from digestive issues to not having enough food or water between rest stops.

I understand that most of these anxieties are really just problems in attitude and thus am trying to manage them with positive mental imagery. I imagine myself staying positive, embracing challenges and accepting that pain is temporary, among other cheesy reminders.

Of course the question “Am I ready?” is also keeping me up at night. Wondering if I should bring one pair of glasses or two, whether I am packing too much or too little clothing for cold weather, if I have enough tent pegs, if I should invest in a bike trainer and so on.

At this point, I’ve spent so much time preparing, worrying, and preparing some more that I just need to get to the start line and realize that everything will be ok.

To Do List

My to do list has gone from about 5 pages long, to 5 items long and I am very excited! Here’s what I have left to do:

  • Learn how to repair a flat tire, adjust my brakes etc
  • Get my bike fitted and boxed (and call the airline to advise them)
  • Return: sunglasses and pants / Buy: new sunglasses
  • Advise credit cards of travel plans and cancel cell phone
  • Do as many spin classes as possible before I leave on January 9th!!!

It’s unbelievable how time consuming preparations have been. From visa applications and health check-ups to gear research and training, my family and friends know the process has completely consumed me for the past four months. It feels great to have purchased my last items today!

October 8, 2011

Now that the provincial election has passed and I have submitted (half of) my applications to MBA programs, I am able to finally focus on the Tour D’Afrique! So here’s what I’m working on:

Training
I’m trying to take advantage of this unseasonably warm weather in Winnipeg and get in as many long rides as possible (longest so far: 70 km, but hoping to do my first century this week!…update-this never happened)

I’m getting bored of riding the same suburban trails over and overrrrrrr but they are smooth and I’ve enjoyed crunching the piles of leaves this past week. I’ve started cycling with music, which admittedly isn’t the smartest move but, without my safety-first mom to lecture me about it, I’ll take the added motivation until someone else objects


Research
There’s something to be said about NOT preparing for a BIKE RIDE across AFRICA. Who wants to know that they will definitely get rocks thrown at them, probably have a lot of digestive issues and possibly contract malaria? I find the more I prepare, the more nervous I get. I’ve read blogs from past participants with varying results. Bottom line, I need to stop researching. And I need to buy the best gear I can afford.

Gear
With varying climates (altitude, desert, rain forest etc) I have a LOT of gear to buy. In fact, the only things on my packing list that that I haven’t had to buy include: sandals, rope, a couple t-shirts and sweaters, socks, bathing suit and a water bottle that I stole from my mom’s bike. That means the list of things I DO have to buy is 3 pages long (really).

Because each piece of gear is so important (I will be camping for 4 months so I can’t have a tent that leaks, or a headlamp that sucks or bike shoes that give me blisters etc etc), hours of research goes into a each purchase. Everything has to be as lightweight and versatile as possible. I spend weeks debating between getting arm warmers or a long-sleeved bike jersey?A synthetic sleeping bag or a down one? 1-person tent or 2? iphone or blackberry? cyclo-cross bike or hybrid? clipless pedals? brand of multi-tool? contacts or laser eye surgery or prescription sunglasses? new saddle? bike computer? camelback or water bottles? saddle bag or handle bar bag? These decisions seem so insignificant but they are CONSUMING ME!

I’ve tried to delay many of my purchases to the fall season so that I can buy things on sale, but costs are still getting out of control! Many friends have offered to lend me some gear, so I greatly appreciate that! I’ll be posting a complete packing list and cost analysis before leaving. Preview: all the little things have been waaaaay more expensive than I had guessed they would be. 😦

Well that’s about all I have to say for now!