I estimate my Cape Epic partner and I have downed about 100 chocolate, cream soda and strawberry flavoured milk drinks in the last six months. This has been my greatest, most deserved pleasure.
When SMSs have flown around between friends — Are you surfing tomorrow? Wind’s looking perfect, let’s meet at Lakeside at 8.30; reserve will be cooking — we have politely declined and climbed on our bikes at 5am on Saturday morning, and again on Sunday.
When they were taking their girlfriends out for breakfast, mine was telling me she was nostalgic “for when we used to do things together”. I grunted, shook up an energy drink and Justin and I rode off into the sunrise, day after day.
When everyone went to a music festival — for a weekend of floating in a cool river, drinking beer and baking in the sunshine while watching bands we may never get to see — Justin and I were up a mountain, battling dehydration and exhaustion as our bikes bounced and clanged over endless rocks.
When friends did join us for a little mountain biking, they had fun, called it quits after two hours and headed for the beach. We stayed on the bikes and rode up down the hill for another four hours.
Don’t get me wrong, I have loved training for this very long bike ride, even though it has often verged on self-torture. But gunning at a tough goal gets me up in the morning. Being fit enough to ride tiny trails to the top of a forgotten mountain and still have enough breath to look around me keeps me gunning. Jumping into a lonely rock pool when the 40-degree heat forces me off my bike for a moment is heaven.
But downing my Steri Stumpie — my preferred brand of flavoured milk — at the end of each and every ride has been my psychological crutch; my near-daily signal that until tomorrow morning, I can behave like a normal person.
The Steri Stumpies made it all okay.
The idea, as I understand it, is that when athletes perform strenuous exercise every day, they become tired, and their bodies need food to replace the depleted glycogen in their muscles. Training for the Cape Epic, I am pushing my body to perform at a high level, so I need to think about optimising everything I do so that I can get as much out of my body as possible (I, however, don’t optimise much: the cup of coffee I just drank for supper is a good example). Nutrition experts would have it that within 20 or 30 minutes after each ride, I should consume something with the optimum protein-carbohydrate ratio to replace my glycogen stores.
Companies make reams of expensive, horrid-tasting rubbish supposedly for this need — though I usually spurn these in favour of coffee, beer and not enough sleep — but one day Justin said to me: “Apparently chocolate milk is as good a recovery drink as the other expensive products. They did a study!”
A study? So be it, Jedi.
From that day, I have dutifully and happily chugged down a Steri Stumpie at the end of every ride without a single critical thought given to the veracity of Justin’s advice.
This is the part of my ramble where I’m supposed to reveal to you how I finally applied my critical faculties and looked into whether or not the study Justin referred to was rigorous and reliable, and this was my intention when I sat down to write, but I won’t.
You can. A summary is posted here.
At the end of each ride, visions of these milk bottles — pink, brown, green — have floated just ahead of my eyeballs as I’ve headed home, exhausted, and I liked it that way. The milk was my reward — the pat on my back to say, well done, enjoy this, because tomorrow, it starts again.
The Cape Epic starts this Sunday, and after six months of riding, Justin and I have tapered off our training to the point where for two weeks we have almost been able to behave like normal people: surfing, sleeping in, spending our weekends with friends.
Shading the aura of these two weeks has been the gentle green glow of my favourite flavour: cream soda. My Steri Stumpie moment.
Disclosure: While I wish Steri Stumpie had sponsored me, they didn’t. I didn’t ask. I have no relationship with them whatsoever except that I like drinking their milk. There was no brown envelope slipped to me to write this blog. Nor a green one. Nor a pink one.