Category Archives: EFI

Tour d’Afrique 2013 by Laura Holms by Laura Holms: Sports & Adventure | Blurb Books


Tour d’Afrique 2013 by Laura Holms by Laura Holms: Sports & Adventure | Blurb Books.

On January 11, 2013, exactly 1 year ago today, the 2013 Tour d’Afrique began in Cairo.

A couple of weeks ago, my sister Laura surprised me by giving me a book for Christmas that compiles all of my blogs from the ride plus a collection of photos she gathered from other riders.

It looks great and brings back many good memories.

You can have a look at it and order it you wish by going to:

Yesterday the 2014 Tour d’Afrique riders left from Khartoum. I hope they enjoy their ride as much as the 2013 crew did.

Life at the Love Hotel

Day 16, Rest Day, Dongola

We should have looked more closely at the Olla Hotel signboard before we checked in. Next to the hotel’s name was a big white heart, and inside the heart were profiles of two people, a man and a woman, in silhouette. In between the two, in pale yellow, was the word ‘love’.  About a dozen of us stayed at the Olla. Half of us were unfortunate enough to be rather close to the commercial wing and had their sleep interrupted hourly. We were booked in for two nights. Those whose sleep was interrupted decided not to stay for the second night’s performance. Vince and I stayed of course.

It is now the season for the pollination of the date palms. This is done by small little fruit flies that swarm in the billions. Their genetic programming must have mutated though because they seemed to ignore the date palms and swarm around us. They had been with us for a couple of days. However, in Dongola there was an answer. Street vendors were selling netted hats like bee-keeper hats to keep the little blighters away. You had a choice of lilac, pink or banana yellow. So not only did we show up in neon-coloured spandex, we now wore lilac bee helmets. Not a pretty sight.

First thing in the morning we went out looking for breakfast. Little was open. Things start late. But I found some oranges and yoghurt and Vince found a just-opening café that served decent coffee. Today was supposed to be all about eating. My appetite had not been great for a few days and I needed calories. I had also not felt very strong the last few days. I was determined to eat. So about 8:30 we met up with some of the others and went out for a second breakfast. I had a big falafel sandwich and then all of a sudden felt a bit of a gurgle in my guts. By 9:30 I was flushing my system into the squat and grunt fixture. I missed lunch. But by 2:30 I managed a dry fart. The small victories of travel are not to be sneered at. And by 6pm 3 of us were in a small restaurant devouring 2 whole rice-stuffed chickens between us – complete with bread and trimmings – all in all a successful day.

The only disappointment of the day was the lack of ice cream. Three or four shops advertised ice cream but none was to be had. Oh well, it is the desert and it is 42C.

My Race Number

2013-01-10 14.54.27

Just got my race number. Starting line in 17 hours.

Training: Pande Forest Loop

I have had a few good rides this week but the toughest was undoubtedly the Pande Forest Loop yesterday – a 70 km ride with 50 km off road and well over 1000 metres of climb in the hills of the Pande Forest behind Dar Es Salaam. I went with Chris and Dan. Chris had a full suspension mountain bike. Dan was also on a mountain bike. I was on my hybrid with the 1.35 road tires. Not the best choice. The off road bits were very technical. Lots of sand. Lots of deep ruts and gullies, including one crevice about two feet wide, ten feet deep and forty feet long at the side of a single track. Lots of branches and thorns. Lots of very steep descents followed by equally steep ascents. Many must have been 15 degrees plus. It was grueling. The whole ride took 5 hours. I lost most of my time going down the hills. With the steepness and the sand I was afraid of wiping out on my narrow tires. Chris and Dan had no such fears. They blasted down the hills like kids leaving the classroom on the last day of school. I felt like the teacher, worn out at the end of a long year, trying to maintain my decorum and not collapse in a heap. I did find out that the hybrid can do these very technical tracks but not with any speed. So do I need to rethink my choice of a cyclo cross bike for the TdA? Should I get a hard tail? Shit. Thought I had made my decision. Off on an easier but longer ride to South Beach tomorrow.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania

Getting serious about training

I am starting to get a little anxious about training. In the past my only training has simply been to ride and then ride some more – with a little stretching.  And on longer rides there has always been an element of riding yourself into better shape. I accept that. But with my current work and travel schedule my riding comes in spurts.  I am home for three weeks and try to ride a lot. I am then away for two weeks and don’t get on a bike. I also don’t go on every ride I should. I was going to go on a ride this morning but missed the call to say when it was starting and before I knew it I hadn’t lifted my head from the computer for four hours and it was lunch time.

And then today I got a message in my inbox advertising fitness courses at a club I belong to. I typically delete these things without reading them. But today I read it. It was offering a number of courses, such as:

BODY TONING & STRETCHING – Helps strengthen muscles, joints, ligaments as well as the cardiovascular system, where stretching helps maintain flexibility.  These exercises will help prevent neuro-degenerative disease and muscle tension, and will increase blood circulation throughout the body.

Wow! But regardless of the excessive and questionable claim of preventing neuro-degenerative disease, would it be useful? I may change the habits of a lifetime and join a fitness class. Will I have to wear a neon colored leotard? I’ll let you know how it goes.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania


Bums or Clocks

Do you chase bums or clocks? I am not a racer. But I do check my performance today against my performance yesterday and the day before.  It helps to motivate and it gives a sense of achievement. If I know it took me 13 minutes to get up a certain hill the last time I rode it and only 12 minutes today, I am happy – even if somebody’s grandfather left me standing half way up. So I look at the clock, but not only the clock. I also enjoy riding with a group because I often find that somehow I ride better with a group. So what drives better performance? Riding against the clock and pacing yourself to challenge your personal best? Or chasing the bum in front, that is, riding with a group and working to support and push a pace?

In a fascinating article in the July/August issue of Walrus (“Racing Against Time” www. ) Alex Hutchinson looks at recent research into what drives best performance. In the past, performance was evaluated in relation to physical capacity and limits. Training was designed to increase capacity and limits and improvement was measured against the clock. Race strategy was based on performing at the edge of your limits so you could achieve the best time possible based on your capacity.  The limits to capacity were understood by measuring when and to what extent muscle, heart and lung performance began to drop off. This drop off was understood to be a purely physical phenomenon.

As Hutchinson points out however, new research, much of it lead by a physiologist named Tim Noakes who runs the University of Cape Town’s Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Research Unit and who Hutchinson characterizes as ‘a controversial exercise physiologist whom some peg as the greatest of his generation,’ suggests the mind is an equally important player. In the article we follow the Canadian marathon runner Reid Coolsaet as he attempts to meet the qualifying time for the London 2012 Olympics. The Olympic qualifying time is 2:11:29. This is new territory for Coolsaet. He has trained hard to achieve a pace of 3:05 per km over the 42.2 km race. His race strategy is to set and maintain that pace.

The race is the 2011 Toronto marathon. The field includes several Kenyans and Ethiopians capable of running 2:05 to 2:08. The night before the race Coolsaet goes to his coach and says he wants to throw the plan away and run with the leaders. He does and comes third, well under the Olympic qualifying time; and this included a stop at 22km to take a dump.

What Noakes’ research has discovered is that performance limits are not purely physical. When you chase the clock, the mind closes down effort before the muscles are damaged. But with the added motivation of living competition the mind will alter the thresholds and enable more effort.

So my hope is that riding with the rest of the Tour d’Afrique riders will provide the extra motivation to pass the EFI threshold. One can always hope.


A guy by the name of David Houghton rode the Tour d’Afrique in 2005 and then wrote a book about it, The EFI Club.

Here is what he says:

“The Tour d’Afrique has been described as as ‘the longest and most difficult bike race in the world’. And within those who have undertaken this excruciating journey, there is an elite group known as The EFI Club. These are the select few who have survived Every Fucking Inch between Cairo and Cape Town, despite illness, injury, mechanical breakdowns, small children with big rocks and all the misfortunes that Africa can muster.”

It’s all about mind, body and bike – can you keep them from breaking beyond repair, not for ten days or 20 days, but for 120 days.

Joining the EFI club is part of wanting to go. I can’t deny it. Perhaps a vain hope, but I am not bipolar (as far as I know), not prone to manic gushes of enthusiasm, energy and confidence that fall off the cliff of despair at the first 22km hill from hell. Nor am I a hardened triathlete who can pound all day, party all night and be first to start the next morning. I am a more or less ordinary guy who likes to cycle and likes Africa.  At the same time I know there will be some cliffs.

There is a famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “Do one thing every day that scares you” (read: day after day on the Tour d’Afrique).  The next bit of the quote is more to the point and often forgotten: if you do one thing every day that scares you “you will be able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror’ “ – presumably this will make you feel good.


EFI = every day on the Tour d’Afrique

every day on the Tour d’Afrique = a scare a day

a scare a day = living through horror


EFI = living through horror

I am sure this syllogism will come back to haunt me.