Saddle sore but running

2012-06-02 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG financial planner Greg Perrett is on the downhill slope of his epic nine-day solo cycle from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg City Hall, on track to cruise into town around noon today.

He’s definitely not the first to undertake such a cycle, but he’s having a few hours respite before lining up for the Comrades down run the following day, something he is “hoping” to finish. It’s his fifth run, but the first one after nine days in the saddle of his trusty bicycle.

He started his ride on May 25, giving himself nine days to finish. As a keen cyclist, he spent up to 200 hours in training over five months, adding some running twice a week and all for a good cause — not for personal glory or front-page news.

“It’s completely my own initiative. I decided to do this, on my own, with no backup, to raise funds for LEAP (Learner Enhancement and Advancement Programme), an outreach initiative of Grace College. It’s funds to help put children through the school, affording them an otherwise unheard of opportunity,” he said.

The programme involves two pupils going through the school from Grade 8 to 12 with all expenses covered. Currently there are eight children involved and through his efforts, Perrett wants to increase it to 10. “It boils down to what these children can achieve if given the right opportunity,” he said.

Meticulous planning, including driving the route in March this year which saw him stop and barter two free meals and accommodation at bed and breakfasts and hotels in his overnight stops, has seen the journey stick to schedule, although Mother Nature and Murphy’s Law have thrown the unexpected curve ball.

“Tuesday this week was a day from hell. I went from Jansenville to Tarkastad and from the outset, for some unexplained reason, I felt flat, the legs refusing to run smoothly.

“They felt wooden and I lacked pace. The job had to be done though and to make matters worse, I picked up a puncture coming down the pass into Cradock, about 15km out of town — a nail through the rear tyre. Without a spare (which was a deliberate decision) I lost time before Paul Hansen, a former PMB Varsity student now living in Addo, picked me up on his way back from a funeral in Cradock. I bought new tyres and still had 80km to go.

“Added to the day and by far the most deciding factor, was the headwinds for five to six hours. From averaging about 24 km an hour, I was down to 14 km, with extra effort. I finally reached Tarkastad at 7.40pm, a long day in the saddle.

Most days I start at 5 am, but have pushed it to 6 am on occasion. I spend about eight to 11 hours in the saddle daily, stopping for lunch and a 10-minute break every two hours, not forgetting regular stops for photographs,” said Perrett.

Besides saddle pain, there has not been cause for alarm. A few tweaks have been overcome and the only medication has been a tube of Voltaren. As Perrett said, “I am not hi-tech. I ride carefully and eat pecan nuts.”

Perrett’s journey and running Comrades straight after recreates the feat of Phil Masterton-Smith, youngest ever winner of the Comrades when he won in 1931 aged 19.

Two years later, unable to afford travel expenses from Cape Town, he took 10 days to cycle to Pietermaritzburg for the down run, finishing a creditable 10th.

“That takes balls. An old bike, dodgy roads, basic shorts and a shirt was his lot. I am in luxury and have no room to complain,” said Perrett.

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