05 November 2007

Karibu Trade Fair Race 2006

I found this in my email, written 1 1/2 years ago. The pics are from KTF2007 Race, a whole nother story but not told.

KTF2006 is our club's annual race. Around the first of June every year the tourism industry has a trade fair called Karibu Trade Fair. It is mostly about promoting tourism but it is also is a fair for anyone who might be a supplier to tour operators, and it is a big party for Arusha.

For the past few years we are allowed to stage our race during the fair. The only advantage is that after the race those of us who are middle class can go buy barbecue chicken and beer inside the fair and our families can hang out there while waiting for us to return.

For the first time we turned the race organization over to the younger guys in the club and they pulled it off very well. We even had some cash left over that was used to buy more second hand bikes for new riders.

This year the race is shorter, only 130 km instead of 180. I thought that would be too short for me but I think it was better. This way the second half of the race is still a race and not survival to keep going. But I am a survivor.

Prep for the race.
I commuted on bike two days the week of the race , and on the Wednesday club ride took it at 75% normal speed and Friday night only drank too glasses of wine and half a chicken and some roasted plantains. You see, I am 50 now and I am not going to break the top ten anyway. Just in our club there are probably 10-15 guys faster than me.

I got up around 6am and fill up 3 containers with 20 litres water, get my bike out, my cycling clothes, street clothes for after the race, eat a peanut butter sandwich, a banana and drink water.

This race I am going to have honey and salt in my water, eat more bananas, and a shot of honey every hour. Other times I go for almost 2 hours before starting to eat and I pay for it.

We actually start on time. We have 10 riders from Kenya, and another 20 from other cities in Tanzania, and 30-40 from our club. I recognize people from other parts of Tanzania now. We do the first 10 km into Arusha town and to the edge at a controlled pace. You can't race even with police and other cars trying to clear the road. Just too many cars. It is a fun stroll through town riding in the middle of the road with 70 other bicyclists. At the edge of town immediately the pace becomes 45kph on the flats. The next 20km we are averaging 44kph. I stay in the middle trying to stay out of trouble. There are now about 35 in our pack and 5 of them are weaving as they are inexperienced. We yell at them to stay in the back but they are wannabes.

The "over 50" group try to keep tabs on one another and say we will try to stay together unless someone can stay with the lead group longer. Henry has never managed to stay this long , usually he gets dropped on a spurt or hill, but this time he is staying right near the front so he can be more aware when the spurts happen. All of a sudden the group will up the pace to 55kph on the flat for 30 seconds and then settle back to 40. You just need to hang on and hope it slows down quickly.

There a a couple of significant downhills on the way to the plains and the pack hits 70kph. On one someone decides to go all out on the downhill and the pack struggles to maintain contact. I need one more gear. I was wildly spinning and in the end just tucked and hoped the lesser wind resistance would keep me in contact. Luckily they only did that for 30 seconds and it was back to soft pedaling in the back. Now we were down to the plains and gently rolling for the next 20kms. The pack would slow way down to almost 30km as no one wanted to be out in front. So several times the "wazee" would go up front as a team and pick the pace back up for 5 minutes. One time we had a really good round going. Was impressed myself. We stopped before getting too tired and assimilated back into the pack. Still alot of people in the group. Abdallah and Hendrick, and Cheusi are hanging in the back. Moses does alot of work in front together with a Kenyan.

We pass the airport turn off and the pace mostly lags. we all are eating and drinking by now. I have eaten a couple bananas and a shot of honey, I don't feel the need for it but know later I will have hard time eating when I get tired later on. The wazee do a turn up front but get back well before the turn around point. We know at the turn around it is very likely the group will sprint for awhile. There are no downhills after we turn around either flat, slightly uphill, or really uphill. Take that back there are a few short downhills here and there.

Sure enough at the turn around there is a sprint and I am kind of in the middle. You have to be careful that the person you are following is maintaining contact. If they drop back you have to move around quickly and up to the pack. All the wazee manage to stay on and we have dropped 10 people. The pace slows again as we move back across the flat plain. It will be hard for them to drop us now until a long hill before King'ori town. Wazee congratulate each other and warn each other to get ready for the hill.

Sure enough, at the next long hill, not steep but sustained the pack moves off. People are struggling and drifting back and we move around them. My companions just cant hold it and we group into a second pack 100 meters back from a group of 15 leaders. A day later I tell myself I could of bridged and stayed with them. But at the time I was glad when verbally and by action they all said "can't do it". I wasn't maxed out but pretty scared at the sustained tempo and how I was feeling and there are still 50km or more to go and two long sections of hills.

We have lost Thomas and Henry and have a young high school student club rider with us, Samueli, the guy from Zanzibar, and I can't remember who else. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that I have more energy than Wes, Mike, or Thad and do most of the work up to Kikatiti hill. The Zanzibari, the student ,and Samueli leave us on some slight hills, we catch up on the flats and then they move ahead on the hills. Kikatiti hill is about 1-2 km at max vehicle grade and then another 1km at lesser grade. My buddies are holding me back here but i know they will help me on the flats, even if only 25% of time in front they will help me go faster over all. We make the top of the steep part and pick it up a bit and start catching the small group in front on the gradual grade. We catch and pass them on the short downhill into Maji ya chai town and then my bike feels funny steering. The front tyre is good but steering is funny. I start asking my "team" and Mike says you got a flat in back. Damn! I have to stop. I tell them go ahead but they stop as I expected and we quickly change the tube and pump it up. Those we passed and another six or so pass us. I thought it was 3 only but others say alot have passed us. Now we roll slightly up, flat, slight up for some 10 km. We pass some of those back but can't catch Samueli, zanzibar, and the student, we don't see them again. We pass Tengeru and i am doing 75% of the work. I had a few minutes feeling tired around Tengeru but most of the time I feel strong. After Tengeru we have slight ups and downs and then the big short hill at Kampi ya chupa. We slow way way down, we now are passing and being passed by a Kenyan we have reeled in. After the hill he just stays on our back as we pick up speed into town. The police don't see us coming and the intersections we have to slow up on the first 2, the third is a left corner for us and we scream through the intersection.

Ngarenaro is fast and we are being slowed by cars. We yell to police at the last corner and they hold up traffic and we only have to slow to 20 kph. We maneuver around traffic in a congested area of Mbauda. I am doing less work now. It is too hard to really push this section. At majengo the traffic thins and I move up in front again. With a couple of kilometers to go Wes can't hold us anymore . We briefly discuss and decide to let him go alone the last few kms. Later he tells us he got cramps. I don't want the kenyan to beat our group so i tell Mike and Thad to keep the pace up and rest up for the sprint.

They do their job and with 200 meters to go I take off and lead the Kenyan by 30 meters by the finish. There is a huge crowd almost blocking the road.

We would of love to have seen the finish of the lead group. It was hotly contested among our team. Seems John, Hamisi, and Moses broke away from the group and then we had Hendrik, Cheusi, spread out behind them followed by the Kenyans and Musisi from Dodoma.

I was tired but not totally like the previous year. It felt like it was a race.

After finishing then there was the long wait for the main sponsor Breweries to show up with the race money.

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