Posted 3 years ago

Blood sweat and sugar- the ABSA Cape Epic 2011

The Finish of the 2011 ABSA Cape Epic

I love the Cape Epic. It has a special place in my heart and awakens an inbred need to break myself physically and mentally. I love that your mind is no-where but right where you are, no facebook, email, sms, bbm, phone calls and Twitter posts to worry about. I love those training weekends, where you finish a 10hr plus ride, out in the middle of no-where, mountains, fynbos and dust. At the end of the day you are absolutely stuffed and humbled by the environment. Weirdly, that stuffed, every muscle is crying for arnica, “I wish I put on more chamois cream” feeling is the best I felt all week… That’s why I love the Cape Epic- You feel like that every day for 8 days in a row. It’s the best 8 days of the year, Period. The only problem to my best 8 days of the year is that I am a type 1 diabetic. This quite obviously provides its own problems without regard to Dr Evil’s (the cape epics route designer) sick sense of humour and “why go around the mountain when you can go straight over the top, around it then over the top again??” mentality. So here are a few problems with a few solutions.

P:  I’m Type 1 Diabetic-My body can’t regulate its blood sugar level.

S: Insulin Pump (Medtronic paradigm . system) +CGM(Continuous blood Glucose . Monitor)+Contour TS

P: Hypoglycaemia

S: Hammer gel, Dextrose, Coke +anything I . can find at the water points+ Bruce . Hughes to tow me there..

P: Hyperglycaemia

S:More Insulin, rehydrate, water, chill

P: 707km, 14000m of climbing

S:Self-build On-One Skandal 29er bicycle(My weapon of choice)

P: Blowing with 70km to go… 

S:Bruce Hughes (My partner and spare . . legs..)

P: Loss of humour

S: H.T.F.U. (Harden the F^&* up)

I was supposed to ride the Epic with Kat (Legend), but due to a tumble at the top of Black Mountain in Lesotho in some horrible conditions, Kat was less one collar bone- Long story Short , I was riding with “Spruise” Bruce, and this wasn’t going be easy, as Spruise (soon to be known as Sprusifer), is a beast on a bike.

The Joys of Mountain Biking…

Day 1 was in the form of a Prologue on my home turf, Tokai. Early Sunday morning I cycled there from Kats house with Bruce. Excitement filled my veins, Mediclinc kit looked supreme, my On-One Skandal 29er was a mere extension of my legs and I got to ride my local course to start. Arriving early we were greeted by many friends and family.

I check my sugar in the start ramp, 6.4 and on the rise, Perfect. One more squirt of gel.

“10 seconds to start”, “deet, deet, deet, deet, doooood!” Down the ramp and I could hardly ride, weird what excitement will do. It was an awesome course: lots of single track to keep me happy, plenty hill to separate the field and one goal: to beat the Belgium guys in their onesy skin suits… Once at the top, we flew down overtaking team after team on the single track until the last section, part of the downhill course I knew like the back of my hand. Hopping both sections of roots, clearing the next gap, I was feeling good(too good). I then tried to overtake the next team by taking the shorter Jump (cocky and  really silly), I cleared the landing completely, landed in sand and pretty soon I could see the other rider’s crankset, eyelevel… Thank goodness I never took him out (humblest apologies mate)! Bike, check, me sort of check. Scramble back on the bike for the remaining kilometre, front wheel soft, bar end broken, skew bars and I couldn’t see much through my lenses, But hey- nothing broken. We finished 105th(mens) 1hr 27mins. Good thing I was wearing Mediclinc kit, I got some extra special attention at the Mediclinc.

A little battered on the Prologue..

Stage 1 and 2 were in Tulbagh, A hot, dry, rocky and sandy place nestled between 2 mountains, perfect for Dr. Evil to set out an epic course. Not to disappoint both days were proper! Gruelling uphills, some not ride able and some awesome (even more awesome if had a downhill bike) downhills. After a perfect (sugar wise) stage 1, stage 2 was a night mare- getting my sugar up seemed impossible. I was Eating at every opportunity, I Stopped my insulin completely. I rode on my hypoglycaemic limit for most of the day. Small spirits of energy let me accelerate a bit but ultimately my sugar would drop again. Or at least till I came off very hard again doing about 40km/h on a slight bend (low sugar induced), This caused some much needed adrenaline, and a sugar spike(thank goodness). The limp to the finish was sheer pain… My legs, my bruises and my blood sugar…. one word VASBYT!

Stage 3 was a special one… One of the hardest to meet the Cape Epic I imagine.  Tulbagh to Worceter. Coming out the blocks quicker than I have ever and a low sugar hitting just a few kilometres in I knew it was going to be a long one. Fortunately the road turned from bad to horrific and my technical skills meant I could catch up without loss of energy or sugar for that matter and my blood sugar came right for the rest of the day. I was in sheer pleasure now, I was riding strong again with no sugar worries just crushing the hills into Worcester. Result: 93rd mens


The Worcester Time trial was spectacular. Definitely my favourite days racing and the hardest I have ever pushed on a bike. We had a late start time this morning so I thought I could get my blood sugar right for a change. BUT I took too much insulin too late and my sugar was plummeting in the start shoot. Have you ever downed (or tried to) a bottle of Energy gel (25 servings)? Well I tried and nearly lost the contents of my stomach onto the team in front of us. Revolting! We set out chilled and slowly picked it up. The course was awesome- with tough technical climbs and sweeping single track. We started eating several teams for breakfast. Bruce was on fire this morning, crushing the mean climbs as if he had a score to settle. Up the last climb of the day my Insulin Pumps started alarming.. “Low Predicted” thank goodness it was time to go down. And oh man was it an amazing downhill.. Across the line: 101st overall.

 Time for the big day, 150km from Worcester to Grabouw over Groelandberg.. Not one I was looking forward too as there is a lot of flat in the start of the route. Something I really struggled with was keeping up on the flat. Anyhow this day got much worse than that! Off the start my continuous monitor was alarming “Low Predicted”. “Dee J Vu” I thought. As usual I was taking in a lot of fast acting carbs to try getting it up. It never came up! By the time we got to water point one, I knew something was wrong.. A little too late, I tested my sugar and it was 27mmol/l! Not great if you sleeping, let alone planning on riding a further 110km… The Mediclinc staff at the water point showed great concern and definitely did not want me to carry on. After about 40mins, two of our mates Cam and Vogel cycled in and we joined them.(Vogel being a 6th year med student my parents and the paramedics were a little happier I think) Heading out at a much slower pace and relaxing a bit, my sugar slowly came back to normal. I Rehydrated and was ready to go with about 60km to go. Hammering it home, Bruce’s rear derailleur (the gear changer at the back) broke so he had to ride single speed for the last 30km. Never the less we made up about 50 places and came home properly broken in 265th place for the day… Moral of the story, always trust your body and use your GCM as a reference not the truth. 

Our Cozzie tents at Oak Valley

 Stage 6 was in our home turf, Grabouw, and we were expecting to smash it. But yesterday’s high had left my legs and body broken. I was left at the start line from the front group. Once over Groelandberg for the 2nd time I could see our batch at the bottom. Needless to say, we descended like men possessed and brought ourselves back into the group. Then S$%^ hit the fan, my sugar went low big time. So low I couldn’t ride- I even went straight at a fork in the road (Yes, straight into the bushes). This was possibly the hardest I have ever buried myself while being pushed by Bruce for the next 30km up Mt Lebanon. Until we met my old friend- the Lebanon Trails… 30km of mind blowing trails lay between us and the finish. YES! Winding through the unnecessary single track in Oak Valley we pushed hard taking many teams on the run in. When we crossed that finish line I can honestly say that I had absolutely nothing left.  I have to thank Bruce for that 30km push how he did that I have no idea and the utmost respect.

Few memories beat climbing the waggon trail above Sir Lowery’s Pass to see the finish of the ABSA Cape epic in the distance, Truly Iconic. The Last 20km of the day were possibly the fastest of all and still the feeling of arriving on the grass fields of Lourensford gives me goose bumps. 2 BIG crashes and a blood sugar that resemble Wall Street Stocks in 1929; this was the hardest I have ever pushed myself both mentally and physically and I will cherish the memory forever! Weirdly I really enjoyed it too…


The ABSA Cape Epic 2011 707km, 14000m of climbing, Overall Time: 41:06.26,7 Overall Position: 96 (Men’s) and in 147 (GC) TICK!!!!!!!!!!!

Keep the rubber side down-It helps!-Darol

Posted 3 years ago

It’s been a while…

It’s been a while since I have posted anything- But it doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing anything… So here is some news.

I had a bit of publicity towards the end of last year- This Article in my local newspaper and My Cape Epic Article in the Diabetes Focus Magazine.

I came 147th overall out of 600 in the ABSA Cape Epic this year with my partner Bruce Huges- What an awesome event that pushed me to my limits. I have been writing an awesome article to be published soon. So keep a look out.

Hit the Orange River marathon again- Great vibe!

Kat and I came 3rd this weekend the WCAD Palmiet 100km Adventure race. My First adventure race I learned a lot! Mainly about Route selection than anything else.. Oh and to take an Syringe & needle (that I had for blisters) in case your insulin pump swaks out!-

Kat and I on top of Mt. Harrop during the palmiet 100km AR

This adventure racing series is going to be awesome! Can’t believe I have not done any AR before.

I’d like to say a Little congrats to Dannie Otto (Also a Type 1 Diabetic) who completes the Knysna Oyster Festival Big 5! In a very respectable time coming in 50th overall! This consists of a half marathon, 75km MTB, 100km Road Ride, 15km Featherbed Trail run and the DueSouth Exterra…….. All in one week!

Next event.. the MTN 104km MTB Ultra Marathon in wellington. Wish me luck…

Posted 3 years ago

2011 Starting, Sorry Already Flying!!!

2010 out the way, Argus, EPIC, Transbaviaans, Orange , Breede and Fish River Canoe Marathons Lots of silly S&* in between and of course my Degree. That was bloody awesome and 2011 is looking way more ridiculous. I just registered for my final year of Mechatronic Engineering at UCT; I have The Cape EPIC in 40 odd days, Expedition Africa (500km adventure race) in May, the BREEDE, Orange and Fish river marathons as per usual. Plus being launched into the real world of work is going to be interesting-(I have to try find a way to pay for all my outdoor habits!) Any suggestions as what I can fit in between?

photo from the “Lesotho EPIC”

I have an awesome story on my first shi-nan-igans of 2011 coming- a Bicycle tour through Lesotho (The land of mountains, and more mountains and of course, oh some roads over the top…)

Posted 4 years ago

Transbaviaans 2010

the Baviaanskloof from M.A.C

Epic, tick… What next?? This was my state of mind after the post-epic depression had subsided. (caused by not being able to ride my bike) My body had recovered and now I could immerse myself in bicycle adventures again. Then, I got an email from Jody and Damon, some lads who had done epic alongside me. “You and Kat keen for TransBav??”. hmmmmm 230km mountain bike race, one go, I’m IN!!!

One long ass drive to J-Bay, Kat and I met Damon, Jody and the best second ever, Jeanine for another long ass drive to Willowmore, the start of the Transbaviaans. For Willowmore it was Xmas, New Years, everyone’s Birthday and Eid rolled into one. There were bikes squeezing out of every door in the town. It seemed that every house is in fact a B&B for the weekend.  There were a lot of people willing to subject themselves to a LONG day in the saddle! (It’s not just me!! thank Goodness!) Registration, beer and pasta done, we were set for tomorrow’s voyage to J-Bay.

the Boys Tussling

A generous 10 am start and we had hit 100km before I even looked at my odo. That was one fast ass 100km! I had a sneaky suspicion that the next 130km would not be so easy! They weren’t, the climbing had just started. Thank goodness though, because it was a struggle to keep up with Jody on the flats. My biggest mare of the race occurred about 20km from water point 3. I ran out of juice leaving me dehydrated and without a steady carbohydrate flow to keep my blood sugar stable. AND it was why I wanted to puke all the way up M.A.C. (the Mother of All Climbs) well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…

 At the top of MAC is where the race got interesting… I remember saying to Ledge “this race is not for sissies” and it is not. It got dark up there and we had to strap on our lights and warm gear for the descent. I adjusted my insulin basal rate here as my blood sugar kept rising throughout the ride. Things were also changing as we were past the 6hr mark. It was here that Damon was very unhappy! He was more unhappy than I have ever seen him! The way he was dressed though, wow!

Damon at the top of M.A.C. a sight for sore eyes…

The descent from MAC was awesome. But it was also the start of the relentless “are we there yet?” question. It was kind of like I had a 5year old safety belted down in a seat in the back of  my brain who was now really bored! This carried on throughout the night. It might have lapsed only once- When our AMAZING second met us at the next check point, kitted out with a selection of everything from ZOO biscuits (yes ZOO biscuits, epic!) to salami sarmies.


The Spread… 

“The Never-ender” was not called the never-ender for nothing. The insistent and relentless gradient was a sure test for nearly 200km legs. At this stage I was stoked to have my CGM. It just gave me the confidence that I could push and my sugar was stable. More importantly it reminded me that I wasn’t in the middle of a mad HYPO, I was just broken….


my pump with my blood glucose graph at the top of the “never-ender”

The end could not come quick enough!!! It was one awesome feeling crossing the line with Jody, Legend (Kat) and Damon. 14hrs 20mins was one long ass time to spend on my 130mm saddle. It was one massive test for my blood sugar management. I was broken and one thing was for sure, I wouldn’t be riding the next day…

Posted 4 years ago

River paddling season in full force!

UCT boys getting involved during Franckhoek-Paarl big water release. Including: Mike Bissett, Jimbo Howell, James Day, Bennos and me.

Almost a relief to get off the bike as paddling comes into full force! With the BREEDE, Franckhoek-Paarl and Pre-fish under the belt, it is all about FISH in just over a week.

Pre- Fish was awesome! Leaving on Friday at noon we were in Cradock by 11pm ready to tackle the mighty fish. Day one was epic with the first 10km boasting the new double trouble shoots, toast rack, the technical willows and the mighty KEITH’S Flyover. Souties, Glen Alpha and knutsford drop never disappoint even though everything seemed small after Keith’s. As fast and exiting as the fish is 46km in a canoe is always a long way and a good rest and a HANSA was necessary as we (Bruce Hughes and I) shot Keith’s in style! Day 2- “the day of the weirs” didn’t disappoint and we somehow managed to do pretty well, paddling our way to a +-6hr fish. Big ups to Andrew Birkett and Adi Cox from UCT who claimed victory a pre-FISH!

Bruce Hughes and I across the finish of Day 1 claiming “I shot Keith’s!”

The trip was perfect opportunity to test my blood sugar management before the race. Once again my insulin pump worked a treat thanks to a water proof strap from AQUAPAK- . Nothing better than getting on the water at 7mmol/l and off 3 hrs later at 5.6mmol/l!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s back to work now! I have to get all my work done before the mighty HANSA Powerade FISH River Canoe Marathon 2010!

Posted 4 years ago

The Twee Dorp Tour: HopeTown


Marcels se monster…

It just so happened this year that big water fish and Orange River canoe marathon were on the same long weekend. Perfect excuse to drive 2056km (Cpt. Cam informed us accurately at the pre-trip meeting) to paddle 120km of river. I have done the orange once before 2 years ago, it was just me and my paddling partner from UCT in a lonely field of 30 boats. Well stoked that we won the u21 K2 (we were the only u21 K2) and with the infamous “Gert se perd” and “marcels se monster” rapids there were more than enough stories to tell the guys at home.

The following year a small crew ventured off to the orange to tackle the formidable rapids and came back with stories of infamous “Clementine Pub”.  Where paddlers got involved in arranged marriage agreements not to mention what they cannot remember.

So it was time that we ventured back to see what really goes on at the Clementine and whether we could master Gert en sy monster.

Needless to say the trip started with a little chaos as “Kurt Darren” missed his lift due to some “Kate” night antics involving Tin Roof (A well frequented student watering hole). So Kurt got a lift with us at a later stage only to be fined heavily at the “Clementine” later that evening.  As it turns out the “Clementine” was actually the Naartjie and students did what they do best that evening, got rather festive turning day one of the Orange into a somewhat extended day on the river.

In any case Day 1 was awesome with lots of rapids on a huge river and friendly locals.  It is just rather sad that this race has become so small (UCT making up half the field). In true student canoeing style we all rocked up at the finish line having no means of getting back to camp and had to hitch rides with the local paddlers.

Jimbo and me on Marcels                                            

Blood sugar management has always been a difficulty on the rivers. If you do pull to the side it is nearly impossible to get blood out your finger and onto the test strip.  Often you just take your best guess, test just before you get on the water and just after. Paddling in a K2 helps though. My partner, Jimbo often notices my sugar dropping before I do!

Day2 however was a different experience yet easily summarised… 20km of wide open flat straights, two of the most  F*%@ ‘ing colossal, massive, ridiculous rapids(Gert se perd and Marcels se monster) you have seen in your life and another 20km of paddling up stream(or it just seemed that way).  I didn’t help that I hadn’t paddled for a few months prior.

Although the field was really small, it was really cold, we had to drive for  nine hours and I was NOT fit enough, the awesome tiny town vibes, crazy friends, massive rapids and good banter were worth it and I shall go back.

Posted 4 years ago

The EPIC story of highs and hypos <>

“One day I would do the EPIC”, this sentiment was quickly established in the two years that I have been cycling.  But this was for “future Darol” and not me right now.  I entered the Lottery thinking, “Why not?  What are the chances I’ll get in?”. But with just 51 days to the start my partner Mike Bissett and I were offered an entry.   The Absa Cape Epic is an 8 day 722km Mountain Bike Stage Race. It is considered to be one of the hardest in the world and I didn’t even have the right bike for it, this was no small ordeal.  On the upside I was getting the hold of exercising with the two tools that became invaluable to me in the next two months, my insulin pump and CGM (Continuous blood Glucose Monitor).

Within 2 weeks we had secured 1 entry into The EPIC, acquired 2 bicycles and clocked up 30hrs on the bikes. It was all or nothing.  My body wasn’t quite ready for what I was to subject it to, including up to 18 hours a week on the bike and much abuse from the physio!  As a diabetic , good nutrition and blood sugar management was essential during training and the race. Mike lost 9kg in 2 weeks of this training because he wasn’t taking enough nutrition in. (Not that he didn’t have anything to lose, mind.)

As we had no idea what to expect and had only heard “horror” stories of Epic, we started off at Sunday afternoon drive pace.  By the first water point we weren’t even going to make the 9hr cut off for stage 1.  After water point 2 my CGM was alarming to the extent that I was ready to break it.  Thank goodness,  for without it I would never had noticed that my sugar levels were sky rocketing.  I took a few units of insulin without getting off my bike (a proud moment) and we punished the next hill.  Shortly afterwards that familiar incessant alarming started again, “low predicted”.   I promptly smashed an energy gel plastered muffin and my sugar decided to cooperate.  That was the last time I gave myself so much insulin! Another few hours of riding down, some sweating, much inspiration in the form of mad screaming and nonstop noise making from friends and family and we made it to the train tracks.  The train tracks (insert inappropriate word here), 12km of the hardest riding I have ever done, endless sleeper after sleeper!  Eight and a half hours had seemed like forever, but we had made it to the end of the first stage.

My hardest day was definitely the second day - admittedly it was by my own doing.  Of the 90km of this stage 70km of it was single track, some of the best single track in South Africa! I have an affinity for single track, thus, true to style, I went bananas and with 20km to go I blew (it must have been the non-single track section of the ride).  I have very little recollection of those last 20km apart from glimpses of soft beach sand and Bissett pushing me on the hills and flats. The end of this day will stay in my memory forever.  We came up to the finish line and 2 of our mates were waiting there, it was the start of the first ever “post ride humour” session.  “Post ride humour” is rather like hang-over humour. Your body is so tired and broken that your mind doesn’t want to think, and everything that anyone says is the funniest thing you have ever heard. Friends, adventure, exercise, pushing your limits and just awesome people, hands down one of the best moments of my life.

Biscuit looking pretty…

Keeping a sensible head is vital, without it one could find oneself out of the race very quickly. I found it really hard to hold myself back on the mesmerizing descents the Epic had to offer. I remember coming over a hill to see Worcester, the finish and home for the next two nights.  Typically, with no regard to “Future Darol”, I let go of all form of self-control and bombed the next hill at mid 70km/h getting a puncture, overshooting the corner and narrowly missing some barbed wire.  Surprisingly Bissett wasn’t pleased with my spectacular performance and I got a well-deserved talking to. The talking too and my attention span did not last much longer than over the next rise where I instantly dismissed all caution.  I smashed what Bissett called a crater (or I’m not sure what he called it, but it was something vastly exaggerated, any other tyre would have handled it fine!) at about 60km/h ripping the sidewall of my tyre.  “Present Darol” acknowledges that this was not clever with 5 days to go!

My CGM proved its worth. Often thinking my blood sugar was pretty stable, I would hear my pump alarm and my sugar would be at either extreme. Being so tired it was hard to distinguish whether I had blown, or if my sugar was just low!  The first few kilometres of every day my bum was too sore to sit and legs too drained to stand, leaving me out of options.  Much to my bums’ dismay, my legs won. Your body is broken, but they say that once you have past day 3 you have made it, no kidding, if your body had let you come this far your brain would take you the rest of way.

By legs or brain we made it to the final stage, over the Gamtoe pass and down to Lorensford-the finish of the 2010 ABSA Cape Epic. As much as I now hate the Black Eyed Peas for the now way too familiar “tonight’s gonna be a good night” (one of the epics theme songs). I didn’t care as it blasted when we crossed the finish line. In fact there is nothing better in my memory than crossing the line to that song (Although Hansons’ mbop probably would have had the same effect).  We had done it, and it only took us 49hours 13 minutes and placing us 265th out of the 600 teams to start. Not bad for a hazardous (riding wise) diabetic and just 51 days of training. I would never have finished without the support from my friends, family, insulin pump and most of all my level headed riding partner Biscuit. Thank you!

This was possibly the hardest thing I have ever done but given the chance I’d do it again and again and again!

Mike and myself on the podium..

Posted 4 years ago

Phew, nearly finished exams only one more left!!! All my time is going into exams at the moment as a direct result of spending most my time on the mountain or training for epic…

I’m putting some cool stuff together at the moment- Ill post it soon!


Posted 4 years ago

Just stumbled across a cool blog..

It deals with diabetics climbing mountains. eg. Kilimanjaro, Everest etc. It is called MAD- Mountains for Active Diabetics. Check it out!

Posted 4 years ago

Check out the link for photos for the latest missions to the Orange, Brak and Molenaars rivers… Awesome vibe!