A " Lady's" Perspective

A "lady's" perspective
Di Thomas
Tuesday, 30 June 2009

When I was asked to write a lady's perspective on this race, the first thought I had was that I'm sure many do not consider us mountain biking chicks to be "ladies" in the conventional sense of the word. Who can blame them, what with all the sideways-blowing-of-snot, immodest squatting behind non-existent bushes, mud bespatted, sweating bodies and foul language!

I am reminded of Carl Crouse's comment to me last year: "Ek sal nooit toelaat dat my vrou so iets doen nie!" It was bad enough having to deal with the notion of a woman along, but when she opened her mouth and all manner of choice expletives poured forth, it was just too much: " Nee man, jy moenie so vloek nie!" he felt obliged to admonish. I was undaunted: " Hang onto your helmet dude. Die vloekery het nie eers BEGIN nie!" These $%^&%&% sore knees/ thornbushes/mountains/marshlands/torrential downpours/freezing temperatures/ ^$££$ narratives are not going to get the *&^&* better of me!!

He could only hope I was wrong and that my true feminine nature would kick in soon and I'd see the folly of my ways and realize that this was a MAN'S terrain.
Thing is, though there's no denying that men have the advantage from a pure brute strength perspective ( even Tim James who is tiny - we could probably wear the same clothes - weighs 12kgs more than I do), we "ladies" have a different kind of muscle. It's a tenacity born of eons of labor & childbirth, stoked by centuries of abuse and marginalization in a MAN'S world. We may be built like gazelles, but we've got the hearts of lions and what better way to give vent to our roaring spirits, than to take on such an extreme challenge and emerge victorious DESPITE our comparative lack of physical stature!

I reckon it's time for the full-scale launch of "Action Barbie". Let's teach our daughters what they're really capable of and guys, why not cheer them on, instead of allowing the old Male Ego to rear it's threatened head?

I won't mention names, but one of the R2R guys specifically asked his friend not to get me in the same photo as him. OK, he was laughing & at least he had the good grace to admit that he did not want his mates back home to know that a woman was able to keep up with him, but there was more than a grain of truth in his joking.

My dear husband, Steve, reckons we're just in it to be around REAL MEN.
Yeah! Ken se moer! Give us the Fat Farmers, et al any day. Not to mention the uber athletes who cry real tears on the phone to their wives when the going gets tough! What a turn on!

Seriously, though, it's really not a battle of the sexes, but a personal journey for everyone who undertakes it and just as most of the "Real Men" also turn out to be real GENTLEmen, so too, are each of the ladies that has undertaken this race so much more than the stereotype and I think you'll find they clean up pretty well and that they can be feminine and sweet and alluring if they want to be. They just don't always want to be.

God, it's liberating to chuck away the hair dryer, the make-up, the perfume & the entire wardrobe and spend 3 weeks without a thought to your appearance, reveling in the sheer simplicity of it all. Granted there's no time or energy to care about such things and no one to see you anyway except the REAL MEN, who anyway have forgotten by this stage that you are a woman!

Not surprising, the way you wolf back man-sized portions at every opportunity, not to mention your matted hair; swollen, piggy eyes; chapped lips; craters where your boobs used to be and the fact that you are beginning to exude a certain pungent aroma that will not fade despite the most ardent clothes laundering - 'n ingebakte stink, I call it and the only remedy is to pile on the outer layers in an effort & bury the pong.

There is no doubt that this journey is a huge undertaking and it is guaranteed to take even the toughest of the tough way out of their comfort zone, but the rewards are indescribable and the experience seems to bury deeply under the skin of all who have ventured there.

Most women would never consider taking on such an "adventure" and up until
2009 there has never been more than one lone female on the start line. This year has seen that figure jump by a massive 200% and we now have 3 ladies en route to Cape Town: Fiona Coward, Estelle Labuschagne & Esti Du Plessis and by all accounts they are doing our sex proud and taking it all in stride.

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